Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King Day

Here in Arkansas, we do (finally) at my university get Martin Luther King off as a paid holiday.

When I first arrived here, we did not.  I forget what excuse the university used -- that we got Veterans day off instead, I think, or that we got the Friday after Thanksgiving off instead, or who knew what.  But everyone knew the real reason, which was that this is the South, and we don't celebrate that man.

Well, now we do.  Statewide, not just at the universities.  But -- to keep the haters happy I assume -- this is not just Martin Luther King day, here in Arkansas: it is also Robert E. Lee Day.

Yeah.  We celebrate, here in Arkansas, on the same day, Martin Luther King, Jr, and the leader of the Confederate Army: the man who took up arms against his country in defense of slavery.  Boo-Yah.

So, to take the taste of that out of my mouth, I bring you this, from over at Daily Kos: an essay on the importance of what Martin Luther King did.

If you don't read anything else today, you should read this.

A taste:

"I'm guessing that most of you, especially those having come fresh from seeing "The Help," may not understand what this was all about.  But living in the south (and in parts of the mid west and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism. 

"It wasn't that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn't sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.  

"You really must disabuse yourself of this idea.  Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement decided to use to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth's.

"It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them.  You all know about lynching.  But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.  

"This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running.  It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people." 

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