Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

There is a very curious sadness to Martin Luther King, Jr Day. It has become largely an excuse for a long weekend and, except for some attention to Dr. King by school children, has minimal bearing on most Americans. Like Labor Day, Veterans’ Day, and Presidents’ Day, the substance of this holiday appears to make little or no impact on most Americans. (At least the Europeans are more honest when they merely created Monday holidays and called the Banking Holiday.) 

For most of the non-African American population, Martin Luther King’s birthday has little or no impact on their lives. Something is very wrong when Americans are unable to pause and comprehend what Dr. King’s life meant or means to the dramatic change in race relations in the United States. Clearly what it implies is that racism and all forms of discrimination is still tolerated at a level that far exceeds what America should be experiencing in 2014. 

If there is a doubt about whether this is the case, one need only consider the insane undercurrent of the deliberations in Washington over the immigration reform. While admittedly there are many legal issues involved in the debate, the negative stereotyping which pervades the discussions are truly abhorrent. Whether one is involved in the economic issues or the social-cultural ones, Latino and Hispanics populations certainly suffer from ugly characterizations which are reminiscent on some level of the anti-Black feelings which Dr. King fought to eliminate.

Recognized African-American athletes, celebrities, and even Presidents do not truly eliminate the deep seeded hostility felt in many parts of the country towards Black people. A nation committed to truly addressing the issues of poverty, jobs, housing, education, and healthcare would also not need to address much more comprehensively the underlying racism and discrimination which the nation has permitted to persist even 46 years after Dr. King was assassinated.

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