July 17, 2014, a 43-year-old African American man died in Staten Island, New
York City. The leading character of this event is Eric Garner, whose job was a
horticulturist at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. He was
approached by NYPD officers on suspicion of selling cigarettes without tax
stamps. During the process
of 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, he
died because of “Compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and
prone positioning during physical restraint by police” and “Contributing
Conditions: Acute and chronic bronchial asthma; Obesity; Hypertensive
cardiovascular disease”. As he’s an African American, this event has become a
hot topic relative to racism and police violence.

I introduce this event because it can
be connected to the letter because this event involves the point of racism as
well. Martin Luther King was an activist engaged in combating racial inequality
by nonviolent resistance. He was arrested because he participated in a peaceful
anti-segregation march without a parade permit. In a confinement cell in
Birmingham, Alabama, he wrote this letter to explain himself and to refute the
criticisms made by eight clergymen from Alabama. In the letter, King brought up
the injustice in treatment to the black people and the necessity why people had
to band together to achieve racial equality. On page 3, in the second
paragraph, he listed so many examples that happened in the families of black
people of how they were regarded differently in every aspect. The event of
Eric’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 and
the police officer ignored his calling after he found himself out of breath.
While Eric remained unconscious on the ground, the police made no attempt to
resuscitate him and just told him to breathe in and out. According to the
police, the officer denied that he used chokehold which is prohibited by NYPD
policy. The way New York Police treated Eric while an asthma attack was
obviously inhuman. There were plenty of options for them to arrest him instead
of taking him down to the ground and keeping choking him. The delayed rescue
was the direct reason for his death, but the officer was not indicted by the
grand jury. Besides, before this incident, Eric was harassed by police officers
for several times on the street which were humiliating. All these statements
above show how bad the treatment was to the black people, which even caused
deaths of human lives.

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In terms of audiences, the letter
seemed to be intended for the eight clergymen who criticized the actions of
King in public. As a matter of fact, it was clear that this letter was for a
group of moderate, white, generally moral but conflicted group. On page 4, in
the seventh paragraph, he said “I have been gravely disappointed with the white
moderate” (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 at
that time. On page 5, in the last paragraph, he said “Oppressed people cannot
remain oppressed forever” (5). On page 6, in the third paragraph, he said “I
suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can
understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race” (6).
 This letter implied his expectations he
would like to express on the white moderate and the oppressors who had control
at that time. Today, I suppose the audience group should become larger. Some
ordinary people who admire white supremacy have become extremists and they can
be seen everywhere. I still remember a student I saw in the campus last year
with his arm tattooed a sentence expressing white supremacy. In addition, not
only to black people, people of different races who receive unjust treatments
should unite with white people who respect racial equality to eradicate racial
problems together and realize a diverse and peaceful society. At the time of
King, the racial problem mainly affects black people. However now, it has
spread to influence many other races except white people.

In summary, racial inequality is a
crucial problem not only for this society, but also for the world on account of
the tendency of globalization. The letter was very sincere and inspiring both
to the audiences at that time and people of different races in the world
nowadays. As King said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,
tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all
indirectly” (1). It was initiated by historical reasons, but the equality in
civil rights is the principle to the achievement of a peaceful environment and
development. It should be applied regardless of where one is from, what one
believes or how one choose to live a life. This is protected by the law and
should never be taken away.