In Arkansas, MLK day is also known as Robert E Lee Day. Apparently, Alabama and Mississippi do the same.
Official state websites listing what services are closed include both men's names. My first January down here, I received an email from the university announcing the day--and that included both men's names as well. I was shocked and when I mentioned it to my colleagues, they just shrugged.
Southerners claim it's not about racism. It's about honoring history, they say. The glorious past. No one even thinks about it, they claim, because it's all behind us. And I have a good friend, a liberal Democrat from the deep south, who argues as passionately for the Confederate Flag as a symbol of southern pride as he does for the rights of African Americans.
But I'm not buying it. Not for a minute. No wonder the rest of the country believes southerners are racist hicks. No wonder Rush Limbaugh makes racist statements about the tragedy in Haiti--and garners an audience for it.
The fact is Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King stand for two separate ideologies. Continuing to deny it is racist. There's no other word for it.