Jim Crow

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: http://www.ajc.com/news/mlk-snow-make-up-803594.html

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

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Mixed Feelings about Senator Robert Byrd’s Death

For some reason, I am having a difficult time feeling much sorrow about the recent passing of Senator Robert Byrd, the longest serving United States senator in American history. I know that many people from West Virginia will not like the fact that I am struggling with my sorrow about Senator Byrd’s death. I would, however, just like to remind them that this man was a former member of the KKK and a man who repeatedly used the word “nigger” in an interview to refer to Black people. Although he has apologized for being a member of the KKK and for carelessly using the word nigger, his apologies never took the pain away for me. It is not that I do not forgive Senator Byrd for his past wrongs, but I have to be honest that I cannot forget what he has done in his past that has had negative consequences for Black people.

Although he had a vexing past, one of the great aspects about him that I deeply respect is his commitment to the U.S. Constitution. No politician in Washington, D.C. has had a greater commitment to the Constitution, since the Founders, than Senator Byrd. He was such a lover and protector of the U.S. Senate traditions. I love Senator Byrd the historian, but I struggle with my affection for Senator Byrd the man.

When people die, we cannot simply get all emotional and forget about the full history of the people. Yes, Senator Byrd has done some great things but he has also done some terrible things that have had a negative impact on Black people that may last a lifetime. I do want God to take care of his family, relatives, and friends during this tough time for them. I am sure that my article is not what they need right now or at anytime, but the American people need to lose any romantic notion about Senator Byrd and explore the full range of his life.

One thing that I will not miss about Senator Byrd is those long speeches that he would deliver on the floor of the United States Senate. His speeches were so boring and consumed so much time. He would go on and on talking about random things. Again, I have to be honest because I will not miss those speeches as I watch the proceedings of the U.S. Senate on C-SPAN.

Former President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Joe Biden tried to suggest that his “fleeting association” with the KKK was not really significant. Well, it is quite important to many African-Americans who have been so traumatized and harmed by the legacy of racial discrimination that this group helped to engender. Even a “fleeting association” with the KKK is harmful to Black people. So you will just have to pardon me if I don’t shed one tear for this man, and you will have to just pardon me if I am not going to participate in this love fest for him just because he is now dead.

This man is a former member of the KKK! Many Black people have died because of this group of racist haters and he participated in it—no matter how long he did participate. He died—oh well! So did many of my Black people at the hands of American terrorists—the KKK.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison