While the national holiday is not until tomorrow, I thought it would be nice to recognize Dr. King’s actual birthday. In 1994, President Clinton signed legislation – put forward by Sen. Harris Wofford (D,PA) and Rep. John Lewis (D, GA) – which transformed the decade-old holiday. The goal was to challenge Americans to use the day for citizen action and volunteer service. As noted on the official site for the day, “It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.”
Lest we forget, however, one of our Presidential Candidates, Ron Paul said about MLK Day:
Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.
Talk about blatant racism and white privilege at work. Shame on you, Ron Paul! Shall we also look at the racist and privileged comments from GOP Presidential contender, Newt Gingrich:
The fact is if I become your nominee we will make the key test very simple — food stamps versus paychecks. Obama is the best food stamp president in American history. More people are on food stamps today because of Obama’s policies than ever in history. I would like to be the best paycheck president in American history.
Now there’s no neighborhood I know of in America where if you went around and asked people, would you rather your children had food stamps or paychecks, you wouldn’t end up with a majority saying they’d rather have a paycheck.
And so I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps. And I’ll go to them and explain a brand new social security opportunity for young people, which would be particularly good for African American males because they are the group that gets the smallest return on social security because they have the shortest life span.
Wow! Where do I even start to deconstruct the racism here? God forbid we address the system that keeps a marginalized population from accessing resources and just address food stamps. I also just love it when a white hetero millionaire has the chutzpah to tell black folk what they need and what they need to do.
Let us move on to multi-millionaire (Mormon) Mitt Romney. The Mormons did say it was okay for black folk to be included in 1978–how white of them! Rather than let the man’s faith define him, however, let us listen to Romney’s words:
You strengthen the American people by securing our borders and by insisting that the children who come legally to this land are taught in English.
These men say they want to lead our country. It is clear that they want to be the President of the white, the powerful, the privileged. Anyone who falls outside that power structure must be doing something wrong and doesn’t deserve their aid or support until they can emulate privilege. How sad that nearly 50 years after Dr. King told the nation that he had a dream, one party’s choice for leaders would transform that dream into an archaic nightmare.
Let us celebrate Dr. King and his legacy today. Let us celebrate the brave and wise people who helped build a foundation so that dream could become a reality: Bayard Rustin, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, John Lewis. Let us take the challenge of civic engagement embedded in this holiday. But certainly, let us not offer our highest office to those who would ignore this legacy, this hard work, and would rather see a nation of growing divide, where their own power is extended while millions suffer.
I shall leave you with a small excerpt from Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.