What is freedom? It is, first, the capacity to deliberate or weigh alternatives. "Shall I be a teacher or a lawyer?" "Shall I vote for this candidate or the other candidate?" "Shall I be a Democrat, Republican, or Socialist?" Second, freedom expresses itself in decision. The word decision like the word incision involves the image of cutting. Incision means to cut in, decision means to cut off. When I make a decision I cut off alternatives and make a choice. The existentialists say that we must choose, that we are choosing animals; and if we do not choose we sink into thinghood and the mass mind. A third expression of freedom is responsibility. This is the obligation of the person to respond if he is questioned about his decision. No one else can respond for him. He alone must respond, for his acts are determined by the centered totality of his being.
From this analysis we can clearly see the evilness of segregation. It cuts off one's capacity to deliberate, decide, and respond.
The absence of freedom is the imposition of restraint on my deliberation as to what I shall do, where I shall live, how much I shall earn, the kind of tasks I shall pursue. I am robbed of the basic quality of man-ness.
-Martin Luther King, Jr., as excerpted from a December 1962 speech, as reprinted in A Testament of Hope