As I was reading both of these statements “A Letter From Birmingham Jail” by Marin Luther King and President Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech I actually found the content to be a bit dense. So I looked up the audio version of both documents on YouTube and I must say reading and actually hearing the words made a huge difference for me. For President Obama’s speech I watched the actual address that he gave in Philadelphia and I was definitely able to relate to his message a lot more. The video I watched of MLK’s letter from Birmingham actually had a man act as MLK sitting in a jail cell as he recited the words, and for me it just gave Dr.King’s words life. His letter is definitely linked to Obama’s presidency as a whole. In his letter King mentions that the point of non-violent direct action foster tension and dramatize issues around race so that America as a whole can no longer ignore the issue.
The two couldn't have been more connected. Obama mentioned that what MLK’s generation and the generations before him provided exactly what this country needed. People who were willing to do their part by participating in struggle and protest through civil war and civil disobedience “to narrow the gap between the promises of our ideals and the reality of their time.” During his campaign Obama states that carrying on this legacy for equality was one the tasks that he set forth on. However he makes it very clear that although issues surrounding race are real we as American people should not allow our horrific racial past cripple us in moving forward as a nation.
“For the African American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances. This stuck out to me because in some instances I feel that the African American community is often to ready to pull the race card out of back pocket. It can be used as an escape goat so that we as a community don’t have to take responsibility for some of the plights that have fallen upon us. I don’t think it fair for us to always be the victim and look for someone else to blame. We should never forget our past, however we owe it to ourselves and our ancestors to hold ourselves accountable. I am a big believer in self-help and using our history as a crutch does not leave room for that. So I thought it was interesting that Obama called out the black community on that. We will never move past racial issues as a nation if we as a people continue to view every little thing through a racial lens. Not saying that these issues don’t exist because they do, but we add fuel to the fire by being so closed minded at times.
Never the less, I think it is equally important that Obama also spoke to the White American community and let them know that they do indeed have a hand in making out nation a “more perfect union.” In my Afro classes we have been speaking a lot about the color blind racial ideology; an ideology that states that race is non-existence and non-relevant in American society today. I think Obama hit this nailed this issue in this words to the white community. He states that “in the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what is ails the African American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination- and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past are real and must be addressed.” White people at times don’t want to admit to the hurt and pain racial divides have caused in America and of other times they just don’t understand the severity of the situation. We see this in the Martin Luther King’s response to the white clergymen that wrote him while he was jailed in Birmingham. King had to explain to them the realities of what it mean to be black during that time- having to explain to his daughter why she can’t go to the new amusement park because she is black, not having his manhood respected because although he is a grown man white men call him boy, and the horrific murders of his black brothers and sisters. White people didn’t understand this life because they didn’t have to live through it.