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All For One and One For All

October 7, 2010
"No One Is Free When Others Are Oppressed"

The other day upon leaving the library, I passed a car with a bumper sticker on it that read “No One is Free When Others are Oppressed”. I immediately thought of the discussions we had about Martin Luther King Jr. and his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. This bumper sticker reminded me of his sharp words: “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”.

We have studied MLK’s views on equality and justice, along with his stressed importance of the interrelatedness that we as members of society have, as well as the responsibility we have of making sure that all people live freely under the laws of the land. King taught us that injustice anywhere results in justice nowhere because there is an “interrelatedness of communities and states”. This feeds off his motives of why he could not sit self-righteously in Atlanta, when there were issues affecting other African Americans in Birmingham. He was quoted saying that “anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds”, and therefore set out to carry the gospel of equality, freedom, and justice for all. Personally, I agree with this interrelatedness that we have as one nation. While it may not be as evident during times of peace, I feel that in times of war it is very obvious of our connectedness we have towards each other. After the attacks on 9/11, for example, the signs of “United We Stand” and overwhelming support towards victims and respect towards the troops showed our passion for the same goal. It is true that we are all part of different communities in which we feel understood, comfortable, and related to. Sometimes we feel that the only people we have to stick up for are our close friends, family members, or even just ourselves. However, these communities and people are all connected and guided under the same set of laws that keep us protected and free to express our personal beliefs and ideas. If someone were to feel oppressed, who says that you deserve better than them, or even worse, won’t have your freedoms taken away soon after?

So why this bumper sticker? What did this person expect from those who would see it? A clearer picture could come from noticing the other stickers he also had on his car. If for example, you could imagine that there was a “Free Tibet” sticker, or a co-exist image, or a gay rights flag as well, would you agree with “No One is Free When Others are Oppressed”? If you knew which of these stickers were also on their car, would that sway whether or not you agreed with this initial bumper sticker?

While I won’t tell you what other bumper stickers were on the car, I will ask you to think for yourself – do you find any issues in today’s society that keep certain people repressed while others bask in a freedom that they might even take for granted? Or do you agree with Dr. King that, even decades after he fought for human rights, if we haven’t all reached equality together then we haven’t reached it at all?

4 Comments
  1. Zac Hiller permalink
    October 7, 2010 12:16 PM

    This is another controversial subject. The idea that you bring up about “what other bumper stickers” I think is irrelevant. It should not matter what this car is calling for whether it is gay marriage or co-existence and instead just freedom for all. I actually think having another bumper sticker next to this diminish what it says. After reading the initial bumper sticker I thought of it as all mankind. By adding another sticker limits this cars belief to whatever the other bumper sticker is about. I personally feel King would be upset to see another bumper sticker along side this one because then it emphasizes that topic (gay marriage, co-exist, free tibet, etc.) Kings whole belief is freedom to all and his car would either have just the first sticker or a sticker for all people or groups who are being oppressed by society.

  2. katelyn09 permalink
    October 7, 2010 3:26 PM

    While I do think King wanted freedom for everyone I also think that some people may have viewed the bumper sticker differently if they had read the other stickers that were there, and because of this, oppression still exists. Obviously, I do not know what the other stickers said, but regardless it is very easy to classify people into stereotypes if you know just one thing about that person. For example, if the bumper sticker had said something regarding gay marriage, one may instantly begin forming conceptions about this car owner and his or her opinions. These opinions could be positive or negative which then lead to questioning the effectiveness of the “No One is Free When Others are Oppressed” bumper sticker. If one is not in support of gay marriage, they may not have an issue with this oppression and hence not consider the value of the bumper sticker being debated. While if one is in favor of the gay marriage sticker, it is possible that the idea of oppression may encourage one to look at its multiple facets including gay marriage. I believe Dr. King would agree we have made progress in the freeing of oppressions, but I also believe he would still see an uphill battle awaiting this country. Oppressions face us each day as we walk along the street.

  3. Madeline Smith permalink
    October 7, 2010 11:18 PM

    This is actually a relevant point for me because I just wrote a paper for english about the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in the military. I feel that people often overlook these kinds of things when it doesn’t apply to them. I also don’t necessarily agree with the post before me- I think MLK wouldn’t have a problem with people supporting particular groups of people. Isn’t that often what he did? You can still support equality as a whole while specifically pointing out one group.

  4. Andrew Babat permalink
    October 8, 2010 5:49 PM

    This bumper sticker is the same as MLK’s argument that “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Although MLK would agree with the sticker, I think he would be disappointed with the owner of the car. MLK’s major point in his letter is it is important to fight injustices through non-violent direct action. He would argue it would be more effective for the owner of the car to take action and help put a stop to oppression. By putting this bumper sticker on the car, the owner is just making people aware of the situation. MLK would claim this is an ineffective way to deal with injustice.

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