Posted by: bkivey | 17 January 2011

MLKing the Legacy

Today marks the observation of Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday in the U.S. along with Toronto and Hiroshima. Although Dr. King was born on 15 January, the observation gets moved around to make a long weekend. If employed by government, you get the day off. If you contribute to the economy, you probably have to work. While Dr. King is the face of the civil rights movement in America and an individual who made a seminal contribution to American history, as well as actually earning the Nobel Peace Prize when that award was relevant, the observation of his birthday is not one of the high feast days in U.S. culture. Like President’s Day (an amalgamation of Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays) or Veterans Day, most folks don’t find anything unusual about conducting business on the day.

Unless one happens to work in the race industry, where no action can’t be turned into a slight. In the face of heavy snowfalls this winter some Southern school districts are going to use today as a ‘make up’ day to recoup instruction time lost due to weather closures. This has brought entirely predictable and tiresome reactions from professional malcontents at the NAACP and other black organizations. Increasingly irrelevant race-baiters Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have grabbed the spotlight with their trademark overheated rhetoric. Concerning the holiday, Jackson is quoted by the Associated Press:

“For that day, so many have died. For that day, so many have marched. So many have been martyred.”

I was unaware that so many had sacrificed so much for a federal holiday. I somehow think that the civil rights activists, both black and white, of the early ’60’s had larger goals in mind.

Some NAACP officials are quoted as calling the decision to hold classes today “an insult”. Really? Perhaps they should reaquaint themselves with Dr. King’s views on education, embodied in his speech at Morehouse College. They may want to pay particular attention to the last line, in which Dr. King predicts a situation that has come to pass.


This afternoon the DJ on the local jazz station played a couple of hours of Dr. King’s speeches interspersed with gospel music. Other than his surpassing oratory I was struck by the man’s emphasis on unity: not just as human beings, but as Americans. He brought a positive and uplifting message to the table.

Assignment: Compare and contrast Dr. King’s message with the rhetoric of Jeremiah Wright, Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or any public figure whose politics have been left-of-center over the last forty years. Cite passages in Dr. King’s speeches vilifying and demonizing opponents. Do you think Dr. King would approve of current urban culture? Why or why not?

Word Watch

I’ve noticed that the word ‘afterparty’ has come to mean something different than it did some years ago. When I was younger and cruised the party circuit ‘afterparty’ referred to a clandestine party after the party that only people from the ‘in’ crowd were invited to. Getting invited to the afterparty was a mark of social distinction. Now it appears to refer to any social gathering taking place after an event, which leaves me to wonder just what the cool people call their private parties now.


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