Martin Luther King: Take a Day

I can’t do this. I will seem angry and militant, I’ll appear to be someone whining.  My thoughts about not writing a Martin Luther King day posts are similar to my struggle on the first year of the MLK day. If you were a federal or bank employee, you got the day off;  the rest of us had to use a vacation day. I had my excuses;  did I really want to tell my management I was taking Martin Luther King day off? How would that look; what would she think? A co-worker and I convinced ourselves, “he would have wanted us to work.”I did not take the day off.

Dr King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a protest of segregated bus seating where blacks had to sit in the back of the bus and give up their seat to any standing white passenger. During this time, African Americans did not ride city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, from December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956. This boycott when the Supreme Court declared segregation on buses unconstitutional.I couldn’t be bothered to be a little uncomfortable and take a vacation day. What did that say about my character when people walked miles for more than year rather than take a bus, to make a stand? I’m not proud, but I am honest.

Left: Women and men gather around Stonewall Jackson’s grave during Lee-Jackson Day. Right: Stonewall Jackson; Robert E. Lee; Confederate; celebration; parade; south; southern; martin luther king jr.; mlk; mlk day; holiday; virginia; civil war.

The MLK Day bill, signed by Ronald Reagan, who was opposed to the holiday was veto proof. Those who were vocal and voted no included John McCain, Chuck Grassley, Steve Scalise and Orrin Hatch. McCain later would speak of this as a mistake while Grassley, and Hatch insist they voted no because of the economics; there would be a loss in productivity. The same rationale used by Reagan to justify his opposition. On a state level, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, have Martin Luther King and Robert E Lee day, it’s a joint holiday. Georgia and Florida still have Robert E Lee as its own holiday. Lee-Jackson day is celebrated in Virginia. Lee Jackson day is set up to be the Friday before the Monday of King day. Many companies, rather than make MLK a holiday offered up floating holidays and personal choice days. I get it, they want to promote diversity, but don’t want to upset a base.

We learn from history, but why embrace and celebrate the confederacy? Are people so proud of their “heritage” they can’t see beyond the legacy of cruelty it takes to buy, own and sell people like cattle.  Can they not see  defending these confederate war generals, and re-enactments are symbols of a reprehensible past?  In 2019, the Mississippi’s state flag still  includes the confederate battle flag. A relic from a war lost over 100 years ago. Laurin Stennis, the granddaughter of a legendary segregationist senator has redesigned it and a movement has evolved.  Stennis Flag Flyers is a non-partisan, grassroots group of citizens which includes Republicans, Democrats and Independents. They promote adoption of the Stennis flag design as the official Mississippi state flag, which we believe will encourage unification of our citizens and further economic growth in the state. There are ways to acknowledge the past and embrace the future.

Jim Crow laws were based on the theory of white supremacy and were a reaction to Reconstruction. After the civil war, racism appealed to whites who feared losing their jobs to blacks. I lived in this time period. We were colored then I was born in a colored hospital. Separate but equal? This was not a trajectory to be better. Why honor King? How would things have changed if not for King?  King influenced the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. These acts provide the legal foundation for the rights of minorities, women and LGBTQ. He worked for equal rights, housing rights, opposed war and opposed poverty. His movement was inclusive. His movement was non violent. His movement was a threat. The FBI started monitoring King in 1955 and wire tapped him from 1958 until his assassination. J Edgar Hoover called King “the most notorious liar in the country” in November of 1964. It was an odd dance, the same FBI attempting to discredit King was the branch to investigate racial discrimination cases. King’s focus and devotion is unparalleled. King was not a saint, he battled his own demons, but, he didn’t make excuses. There were countless opportunities for him to walk away, but he didn’t. For that, I can get over a fear of appearing mad, angry whiny and militant. For that, I can write a post and take a day.

 

 

 

 

  2 comments for “Martin Luther King: Take a Day

  1. Jean Turner
    January 21, 2019 at 8:05 am

    Sheila- this is an incredible piece! Thank you for taking the time to write it. I share your sentiments on the importance of what Dr.King did for ALL people, not just for Blacks, or colored folks- as would
    have been the descriptor back then.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Denise Marie
    January 21, 2019 at 9:47 pm

    I heard no whining… I heard truth and well directed disgust and pain.
    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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