The South

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.
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5 Response to The South

January 18, 2010 at 10:44 AM

You are 100% dead on the money on this one.

January 18, 2010 at 10:57 AM

If it _really_ was about history in Arkansas, the state would have had the holiday before Mike Huckabee made it an official state holiday in 1999.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt on things like this, but the history in Arkansas just does not support it.

Also, I feel I have an appropriate amount of shame about my mid-century German heritage/relatives, and feel others should be similarly sensitive about acts of slavery, forced poverty, or genocide.

January 18, 2010 at 1:05 PM

Virginia used to have Lee/Jackson/King day (Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson), it was crazy. Now we have two days. 0ne for Lee and Jackson and of course the one for MLK.

January 20, 2010 at 1:45 PM

I couldn't agree more. I used to live in dairy country in Fla. Rednecks galore. The schools there didn't even bother to claim the day off was to honor Martin Luther King, no that was simply a teachers appreciation day. And no one dared rock the boat. Having lived in NY beforehand it was the strangest thing to witness.

I'm now back in NY and you can bet, I'm overjoyed to be among people who DO celebrate the day. (Hugs)Indigo

January 27, 2010 at 9:10 AM

I used to think that it was good, because Robert E. Lee was a strong Christian man with honor and dignity. But after seeing some reactions from friends who happen to be black, I realized it was just a move to cut Martin Luther King down. Rev. King was not perfect, but he helped change this country for the better. We should thank God for using him.

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