But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

from Martin Luther King, Jr – Letter From Birmingham Jail on Rap Genius

Meaning

This opening statement is a pure example of Dr. King’s oft-criticized habit of taking a conciliatory approach towards his detractors.

Rather than addressing the “8 white clergymen” as the assholes that they were, he knew that these men were respected members of the communities he was hoping to change.

By respecting them in the face of such disrespect, he was able to provide an important dichotomy between himself and white southern racists to those originally neutral to the Civil Rights Movement.

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