"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
Letter from the Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #6: The Highest Rated on my TBR
I have LOTS of TBR lists. I have one on Goodreads, several on my library's website, my Paperbackswap and Bookmooch lists, and pretty much all the bookshelves in my house, which amount to one massive TBR pile. So when it came time for me to choose which list to use for this challenge item, I went with my audiobook TBR pile because I was in need of a new audiobook. This is the piece that came up the most highly rated, and I think my sister Krystl has pretty much written the only review of this book that will ever be needed:
"Well, come on. What bad things can you really say about this?"
Nonetheless, I found a little bit more to say about this.
Once I got past the somewhat old-fashioned writing style in this essay's preamble, I was struck by how incredibly relevant most of Dr. King's rebuttals were to his critics. I was listening to this mostly as I lay in bed, but I kept wishing for a printed copy so I could highlight many of his eloquent responses, particularly to those who urge people fighting for equal rights to step back and give it more "time." Although I wasn't alive during the civil rights movement, I heard so much of the same pushback during the fight for GLBTQ rights that has taken place over my own lifetime, and in the future Dr. King's responses will continue to be relevant to those who must still fight oppression. Of course, we're a long way from Dr. King's dream of true equality for people of color, so a lot of this is still relevant in its original context, sadly -- it's just that now racism has very much gone underground, making it harder to confront. So until the fight against oppression stops being relevant, this should be required reading for both sides of any battle.
My frustration with it, and the reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5, is because the language was very much focused on the plight of "black man." While "sisters" was mentioned once or twice, the default language of solidarity was "brothers." So it's not a particular intersectional battle for equal rights; King seems concerned primarily with black men obtaining equal standing with white men, which is a worthy goal, but still leaves a lot of people out. It's no wonder the women's liberation movement followed so closely on the heels of this one -- and borrowed so openly from it.
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