With sheer reluctance, President Reagan in
1985 signed a bill into law making the third Monday of January a national
holiday celebrating the birth and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I remember quite vividly Reagan's accusation charging Dr. King with
being a "communist" sympathizer, and lamenting that America
need not pay homage to a seditionist figure.
Those were Reagan's thoughts on Dr. King and I suspect they remain the same as he lives in recluse in Orange County, California.
Reagan's opposition toward commemorating Dr. King's national and global humane contributions, lie deeply in his staunch conservative right-wing philosophy. Reagan's push to dismantle many of the Civil and Human Rights factors Dr. King lost his life over continues to be at the center of the current (select) President George W. Bush administration. Dr. King did not die from natural causes. He was assassinated because of his lifestyle. His birth is significant, but even more so, Dr. King's fight against racial injustices and inequality outweighs simply having a "day off" on Monday.
The permeating legacy of racism, sexism, and economic exploitation in America necessitates active involvement by individuals and organizations committed to eradicating racial discrimination and other forms of xenophobic practices across the American cultural landscape. To understand many of the contemporary paradigms of racial and economic injustices in this nation, one must put it in context-both the historical context in which it formulates, and the ongoing social context that warrants it.
The entire first epoch of American economic development was based on the exceptionally vicious and morbid profitable exploitation of African and African American slave labor. These features of America's economic development gave credence to sophisticated systems of economic, social, political, and legal discrimination and ideological self-justification. With the end of slavery and the national union secured by the Civil War, a period igniting a series of massive militant racially integrated labor forces coincided with efforts made possible by the Radical Reconstruction.
The response to this integrated workers' revolution with African Americans workers, led to the ruling class mandating a system of Jim Crow segregation. Its primary institute was built against African American liberation from White Supremacy. The impact of Jim Crow laws was enormous to say the least. It divided and conquered the poor and created an exclusive parameter that kept African Americans out of trade unions, public accommodations and denied due process protection granted by the Fourteenth Amendment. Today, the social ramification of slavery and Jim Crow laws are evident all across African America. Dr. King's struggle for racial justice and global peace is incomplete. As we observe this great man of God, whose vision for a better America shook its very foundation, remember that there is much work to be done.
Curtis M. Keyes, Jr., is a graduate student in Political Science at Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL. The opinions expressed are those of the author and are used by permission.