Martin Luther King, Jr Day

2 minute read


Today is Martin Luther King, Jr Day in the United States. One of the legal people I follow on Twitter, Akiva Cohen, posted a long Twitter thread quoting from Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Akiva admonished his followers to read it in full.

Since I’d never done that, I thought I should.

There are many, many powerful statements in the letter. Please read it.

Two of the more powerful statements that spoke to me are these:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.

But it was one of the more pedestrian statements that I found most personal:

The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.

Those you’ve known me a while will know of my general fascination with coffee. When I was writing up my PhD thesis, I took several weeks off to research quotations about coffee. I introduced each chapter of my thesis with a quotation. The quote below is one that was suggested to me by Prof. Robert Williamson, from Bach’s Coffee Cantata.

The quote appeals to me because it’s so banal and yet used in such high art.

So why does Dr King’s quote appeal to me?

For me, the connection to coffee is a connection to the every day. It’s something that I do (pre-COVID) on a daily basis: go and get a cup of coffee from the lunch counter. If I found that I was disallowed from getting my coffee because of my skin color or eye color or the way I walked… that would make me very angry.

Dr King’s letter is so long because he was locked up and had time to think about it and had time to write it.

I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk

As I sit at my comfortable desk, it makes me think. And that’s a good thing.