Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Trivalizing Martin Luther King's Birthday
Penn State students get to work on Martin Luther King Day of Service—The Pets Come First crew wiped down cabinets, washed windows and dishes and otherwise spruced up the former Pennsylvania SPCA shelter. Director Deb Warner appreciated the help.“There’s so much during the week, taking care of so many animals, that we can’t get to these things,” Warner said.Senior Abiola Ajibola, perched on a step ladder, erased dust with a spray bottle and a rag. Having volunteered for community service before, he said he participated in his first MLK Day of Service to join “a diversity of people” who believe in helping others.“I feel that this day exemplifies that attitude of everybody, and that’s why I’m here,” he said. “We’re giving a few hours that we have.”—Chris Rosenblum
Annual Ritual Distortion of King's Life and Message
I am certain Chris Rosenblum's article in the CDT, which celebrated student volunteers cleaning dog kennels on the Martin Luther King holiday, was well-meaning. I found the article a perfect example of the trivial nonsense that has always made me an opponent of the holiday. Why not spend an afternoon cleaning dog kennels instead of attending a basketball game?
King might have encouraged taking time off to oppose Pennsylvania's infamous voter repression law, which was struck down on January 17, permanently we hope.
King was not an establishment figure. In 1967, Life Magazine (4/21/67) called King's Riverside Church address against the Vietnam War "demagogic slander" and "a script for Radio Hanoi."
King was a supporter of affirmative action, and he wrote: "A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro"
It may be that a certain portion of the PSU community supports the principles that King and his movement stood for, but all of us would be better off attending to our work as usual, perhaps studying America's failure to achieve King's dream of higher wages and better working conditions for all.
Sadly, the King Holiday amounts to little more than the annual ritual distortion of King's life and message, and forgetting the fact that he was murdered while working for the rights of organized labor.
Wilson J. Moses
Professor of History
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking in Memphis,Tennesse 2 April 1968 in support of Sanitation Workers Union on strike.