Home / Happy MLK Day

Happy MLK Day

Comments
/
/
/
263 Views

This is a good quote from Letter From a Birmingham Jail. My favorite:

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to ace the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

When you read legal scholarship from the 50s, as I’m professionally obliged to do sometimes, it’s striking how much gnashing of teeth there is about the Supreme Court allegedly usurping the prerogatives of Southern legislatures, with virtually no recognition of the fact that these governments were not remotely democratic. The beautifully stated first paragraph about the importance of avoiding self-exemptions from general laws is also a point not made nearly often enough, and is relevant to the pending anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

To be fair and balanced, however, the current employer of Jonah “Liberal Fascism” Goldberg made the case for apartheid police states and argued that MLK wasn’t much of a speaker. But I’m sure this is covered extensively in the book.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
It is main inner container footer text