OnJuly 17, 2014, a 43-year-old African American man died in Staten Island, NewYork City.
The leading character of this event is Eric Garner, whose job was ahorticulturist at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. He wasapproached by NYPD officers on suspicion of selling cigarettes without taxstamps. During the processof arrest, Eric got unconscious and died after he was sent to the hospital.According to the report from the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office, hedied because of “Compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest andprone positioning during physical restraint by police” and “ContributingConditions: Acute and chronic bronchial asthma; Obesity; Hypertensivecardiovascular disease”.
As he’s an African American, this event has become ahot topic relative to racism and police violence. I introduce this event because it canbe connected to the letter because this event involves the point of racism aswell. Martin Luther King was an activist engaged in combating racial inequalityby nonviolent resistance. He was arrested because he participated in a peacefulanti-segregation march without a parade permit. In a confinement cell inBirmingham, Alabama, he wrote this letter to explain himself and to refute thecriticisms made by eight clergymen from Alabama. In the letter, King brought upthe injustice in treatment to the black people and the necessity why people hadto band together to achieve racial equality. On page 3, in the secondparagraph, he listed so many examples that happened in the families of blackpeople of how they were regarded differently in every aspect.
The event ofEric’s death reflects the unjust treatment to African Americans to some extent.As I stated above, Eric was reported to die because of the use of chokehold andthe police officer ignored his calling after he found himself out of breath.While Eric remained unconscious on the ground, the police made no attempt toresuscitate him and just told him to breathe in and out. According to thepolice, the officer denied that he used chokehold which is prohibited by NYPDpolicy. The way New York Police treated Eric while an asthma attack wasobviously inhuman. There were plenty of options for them to arrest him insteadof taking him down to the ground and keeping choking him. The delayed rescuewas the direct reason for his death, but the officer was not indicted by thegrand jury. Besides, before this incident, Eric was harassed by police officersfor several times on the street which were humiliating.
All these statementsabove show how bad the treatment was to the black people, which even causeddeaths of human lives.In terms of audiences, the letterseemed to be intended for the eight clergymen who criticized the actions ofKing in public. As a matter of fact, it was clear that this letter was for agroup of moderate, white, generally moral but conflicted group. On page 4, inthe seventh paragraph, he said “I have been gravely disappointed with the whitemoderate” (Letter from Birmingham Jail, 4).
On page 6, in the third paragraph,he said “I have been so disappointed with the white church and its leadership”(6). Furthermore, he also referred to the power class in the United States atthat time. On page 5, in the last paragraph, he said “Oppressed people cannotremain oppressed forever” (5). On page 6, in the third paragraph, he said “Isuppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race canunderstand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race” (6). This letter implied his expectations hewould like to express on the white moderate and the oppressors who had controlat that time.
Today, I suppose the audience group should become larger. Someordinary people who admire white supremacy have become extremists and they canbe seen everywhere. I still remember a student I saw in the campus last yearwith his arm tattooed a sentence expressing white supremacy.
In addition, notonly to black people, people of different races who receive unjust treatmentsshould unite with white people who respect racial equality to eradicate racialproblems together and realize a diverse and peaceful society. At the time ofKing, the racial problem mainly affects black people. However now, it hasspread to influence many other races except white people. In summary, racial inequality is acrucial problem not only for this society, but also for the world on account ofthe tendency of globalization. The letter was very sincere and inspiring bothto the audiences at that time and people of different races in the worldnowadays.
As King said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects allindirectly” (1). It was initiated by historical reasons, but the equality incivil rights is the principle to the achievement of a peaceful environment anddevelopment. It should be applied regardless of where one is from, what onebelieves or how one choose to live a life. This is protected by the law andshould never be taken away.