The great racial division in the United States is never more on display than it is on Martin Luther King Day. Instead of being a holiday that brings us together in celebration of MLK’s life, it is a day on which the facade of racial harmony is removed.
Most government offices are closed, whereas almost all private businesses remain open. Instead of closing, private businesses tell their employees to use one of their personal days or floating holidays if they want to take Martin Luther King Day off.
This results in the most racially segregated day of the year. All of the African-American employees take the day off, while the other employees do not. This leads to a very strange scene if you happen to be a commuter. Normally there is a racial mix on mass transit for the morning commute. However, on the morning of Martin Luther King Day the buses, trains and subways are 100% White, Asian and Hispanic. Even the conductors and bus drivers are White, Asian and Hispanic, since their African-American counterparts have taken the day off.
It is very sad that the feeling among most non-African- Americans is that Martin Luther King day is not “our” holiday. It is “their” holiday. People don’t actually come out and say this in public, but they do come very close to saying it. Commuters are annoyed that the trains run on a “modified holiday schedule”. This means that there are fewer trains and it takes longer to get to work. When the conductors explain this, I have often heard commuters say, “God Damn, that’s annoying . It’s not like it’s a real holiday.”
Even the schools are segregated on Martin Luther King Day. For example, in New Jersey, the public schools in the predominantly African-American towns are closed, while those in the other towns are not. In the schools that remain open, African-American parents keep their kids home on Martin Luther King day, while all the other kids go in.
Americans of all races handle the divide on this day in the worst possible way. We ignore it. Politicians hold events and and press conferences on Martin Luther King day and pretend it is a day being celebrated by all.
Let’s face it. Differences and issues exist. Problems need to be solved and taboo subjects need to be discussed. How can Americans of all races really celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. if we don’t engage in meaningful discussion?
Lets talk with each other. Not To each other, or At each other, but With each other. There is a lot of work to be done and it will never be accomplished if we ignore the issues. Then maybe some day we will be able to truly celebrate Martin Luther King Day together.