For Martin Luther King Day, I usually link to one of his last major addresses–a speech to striking sanitation workers in Memphis. But one thing that has always bothered me about the holiday is that we’ve stripped it of the actual history of King. It has, instead, become a ‘don’t be a flat-out racist’ day. Not a bad sentiment, but it leaves out all of the radical work that King did.
The fundamental problem is that this day can’t be for everyone.
Back when the Mad Biologist was far more ‘lil and wee than we are now, Virginia state Representative Douglas Wilder (later to become the first African-American governor since Reconstruction) wanted the Commonwealth to make Martin Luther King Day a state holiday. There was a lot of resistance (‘massive resistance’ if you will…) to this proposal, and the old standby, “We can’t afford another holiday”, was trotted out. Fine, said Wilder, we’ll turn Lee-Jackson Day into Lee-Jackson-King Day (a holiday that celebrates Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. Really). As you might imagine, the bigot caucus was shocked that someone would dare besmirch the Honor of the Noble Cause with the presence of one of those people, and thus King got his own holiday.
This story is a roundabout way of suggesting that most African-Americans probably aren’t keen on the whole Lee-Jackson Day celebration (nor should they be). Just a hunch. So the problem with MLK Day is that the modern conservative movement makes a mockery of what King championed.
In the 2012 election (not to mention other elections), Republicans deliberately introduced measures that would make it harder for African-Americans and other minorities to vote.
In the 2012 election, conservatives divided the country into ‘makers vs. takers’ (or the 53 percent versus the 47 percent). Never mind that King was appalled by the level of poverty and inequality–this is the man who said “Now is the time to make an adequate income a reality for all of God’s children.”
Conservatives have constantly bashed workers, their unions, and their activism. King, on the other hand, was in Memphis the day he was murdered to support striking sanitation workers.
And while we’re at it, King was an open supporter of Planned Parenthood.
If conservatives were honest, they would realize this day is not their day. And that is to their shame.