Letter From Birmingham Jail Analysis

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In Ferguson, Missouri, the shooting and death of Michael Brown triggered widespread protests in the St. Louis suburb, which drew national attention when the police reacted to peaceful protesters with military grade equipment. The riots that broke out after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore has spurred the question of whether the rioters have the duty to obey the law, and whether their civil disobedience is justified. In this essay, I am going to draw from Joseph Raz’s The Obligation to Obey: Revision and Tradition, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail to analyze whether the protestors have the duty to obey the law, and consider an objection from the social contract theory. I will ultimately argue that they do not have a duty to obey the law. I will also argue that their civil disobedience is justified by drawing from Rawls’ and King’s arguments. Raz argues that political authorities are not necessarily legitimate, and that their legitimacy stems from “their service to the autonomy of the individual,” [1] rather than from consent. I would argue that according to this theory,…show more content…
Freddie Gray was only one of the many victims of police brutality that has been covered up by the city. Other victims include a “15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating… an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson…” [4] A ProPublica analysis of FBI data shows that “black teens were 21 times as likely as white teens to be shot and killed”. Emails containing racist jokes exchanged between police and court officials have been exposed by the Justice Department, highlighting the rampant racism that exists in local law enforcement. Based off of these examples, I will argue that black members of the Ferguson, Baltimore community have not been treated justly by local law
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