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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

One Tall Voice: Not OK with MLK day


Published: January 25, 2008
Section: (Audio/Video), Audio Segments, Opinions

This past Monday, our university, and in fact many institutions across America, celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I am sure that everybody liked to have the day off and I am no exception. Still, I feel that one should really critically analyze why we celebrate this day and what we are in fact commemorating. When I think about it, I have some grievances with MLK day. Although King was a fantastic activist, I don’t believe neither he nor any other person deserves a day to be named after him. Also, the political attachments that are unfairly attached to this day make me believe that people are not following in the true tradition of the holiday. In addition, I think there are numerous other ways to praise the work of a great humanitarian rather than take the day off and stop the mail. With all these thought in mind I’d like to relate some of my criticisms of this holiday.

I of course believe that Martin Luther King was a wonderful activist. He used non-violence and other measures to try to bring about equal rights in our country. Still, it is in the very nature of America to have activism, it is in the very fiber of our country for people to cause social change. In our nation’s history we rejoice the names of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, among others, as great activists of their time. Whether it be fighting for women’s suffrage or for equal rights, these people too promoted righteous causes. Why do they not deserve a day of memorance, why must Martin Luther King deserve a special place of honor in the hearts of our country? By elevating one activist with the honor of a national holiday we are necessarily saying that they are more praiseworthy than the multitude of other humanitarians. I do not think this is fair, and no matter how much Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has given to our country, honoring him in this way does not do justice to the others who have similarly sacrificed so that all may enjoy the freedoms of our present society.

In addition, the way that this holiday is utilized for political and other purposes is disheartening. Black activists of the present often use this holiday to reinforce their own movements and agendas. This is an outrage. The current state of affairs of Black rights movements in America is horrendous. Millions of African-Americans are still denied access to quality education while many more are disproportionately placed in prisons. I think that Martin Luther King would be saddened by the current state of affairs of Black rights movements in America as they have progressed little from the 1960s and do not deserve the honor of being associated with this noble man. Even groups at Brandeis are using MLK day to promote their own political cause. Senator Carl Levin came to speak on Monday about human civil rights abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and at Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Wherever your political allegiances may lie, I think possible current abuses are only tangentially related to the rights fought for by King and I don’t think the association of this event, although worthy as it is, with MLK day is justified. Using this holiday for political purposes does an injustice to the MLK legacy.

I also have no idea why people would get off from work for this holiday. Seriously, if you want to remember the man that helped propel the Civil Rights movement, how is this helped by getting off from work? Many people just used MLK day to recover from partying after the Patriots and Giants victory. I don’t think that anyone actually used their free time to actively commemorate King. My public school had us come to class on MLK day. We had seminars and invited speakers to talk about the man’s legacy. This is a much more effective means of commemorating Martin Luther King.

Another grievance that I want to voice about MLK day involves the food service this past Monday. Nothing was open most of the day and it was a total inconvenience. In this way, I have associated MLK with increased trouble and inefficiency. This only further adds to my grievances with the event!