Gilmer County Georgia

Jim Crow Rears His Ugly Head Again: Disrespecting the MLK Holiday in Georgia

Gilmer County and Fannin County school systems in Georgia have decided that they cannot find any other alternative to making up school days missed because of the snow storm without using the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday to help make up those days missed. Well, Black folks are more sophisticated than that. We know racism when we see it—no matter how much you try to hide it. Don’t scapegoat God’s great snow to try to conceal your racism. If these school systems were looking to find alternatives to using the MLK holiday to make up for the school days missed, they could just change the scheduled last day of school to a date that would make up for the days missed. We find ways to do what we want to do, so don’t tell me that you cannot avoid using the MLK holiday to make up for school days missed due to the recent snow storm that much of the state of Georgia suffered. Read more about this story here:

You would think that White people in Gilmer and Fannin Counties in Georgia who made the decision to disrespect the MLK holiday by using it to make up for days missed due to snow would have progressed in their thinking by now. Unfortunately, some White people will never progress in their thinking when it comes to serious race matters. I contend that the White school leaders in the predominantly White Gilmer and Fannin Counties are trying to make a statement about whether or not the MLK holiday should really be a holiday in the first place. They are trying to spur statewide and national debate about whether or not Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy is truly significant enough to warrant being celebrated as a federal holiday. Well, if you are racist, then you, of course, will never view the valuable contributions that Dr. King made to America as truly valuable.

It’s not that I’m surprised that racism is not present in my home state of Georgia. It’s not that I’m surprised that racist White people in Gilmer and Fannin Counties don’t want the MLK holiday to be a federal holiday. What I’m surprised about is they would try to fool people of all races that what this is really about is simply making up for school days missed and not about their racial prejudice and racism. I’m pleased to let the educational leaders of Gilmer and Fannin Counties know that we know that this is not about snow, but about your racial prejudice and racism. The MLK holiday exposes racist people because they become uncomfortable with the reason why they get to be out of school and work: to observe the life and legacy of Dr. King. This profound life and legacy unsettles them because the power of this man’s words and actions are able to make even the most hate-filled bones realize the ignorance behind that hate. Racist people know that their hatred is ignorant but they still elect to continue to live in ignorance.

I know some of my readers will argue that I should simply come to expect this kind of thing and that this kind of thing happens all of time and it does not do any good to spend this much time on a piece in response to it. I could not, however, disagree more. That’s the problem! We don’t do enough calling out of the racial prejudice, discrimination, bigotry, sexism, and racism that we experience daily. We need to do more to bring attention to these types of things. Ignorance can be defeated when we zealously speak to it with truth. When we champion love and justice more, we can begin to make people like the educational leaders in Gilmer and Fannin Counties feel more uncomfortable and less likely to make decisions that are going to be disrespectful, racist, and insensitive to most people in America and across the globe.

The predominantly White parents of Gilmer and Fannin Counties are complicit in the racist decision of the educational leaders of their counties by not protesting this decision. Hmm…obviously it’s not just the educational leaders in these counties who are racist—the majority of the people in these counties have to be racist for not wanting to put up any challenge to this racist decision.

Don’t lie and say that there were no other ways to address the missed days of school due to snow. Just be real, tell us that you are racist.

On this MLK holiday, find ways to apply the dominant themes of justice, peace, love, community, selflessness, hope, and character that Dr. King spoke about and represented in his actions. Don’t just sit around and talk about Dr. King and listen to his speeches—go out do the work that Dr. King championed.

I encourage everyone to write letters and protest the decision of the educational leaders in Fannin and Gilmer Counties to take away the MLK holiday from the students to make up days missed because of the recent snow storm in Georgia. Let them know how you really feel. Show them how you really feel. Let them feel your presence. Don’t let them forget what they have done on such a special day like today! This is not a time to let racist people have the victory over us—this is a time to fight their tactics, to fight their ignorance, and to fight their oppression. Stand up and fight!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison