In a litany of detailed abuses, Dr. King paints the black experience as one too lacking in dignity to suffer any more patience. He lists several demeaning and insulting experiences that black people suffer on a daily basis. Amongst these abuses is his experience explaining to his young daughter why she cannot go to an amusement park because of her skin color. Overall, these offenses lead the black man into a “degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness.’” For all these reasons, because the black man has been pushed “into the abyss of despair,” Dr. King hopes that the clergymen will excuse his and his brethren’s impatience (174).
Central to the argument is the theme of impatience, which has both legal and moral ramifications. Impatience was crucial to Dr. King’s mission, and in fact, many of his supporters and critics both often worried he was not impatient enough. As he illustrates in the letter, privilege will preach gradualism for its own protection, even if many individuals within that group are sympathetic to the cause. At the time of his incarceration in Birmingham, Dr. King was criticized for his impatience by the Kennedys (President John F. and Attorney General Robert), by national publications like the New York Times, and certainly by the Southern cities into which he led demonstrations.