Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Monday, January 18, 2016

Happy Civil Rights Day!

(An annual blog tradition continues.)

In 2006 I mulled over the idea that instead of having a Martin Luther King Day we should have a Civil Rights Day, so that we can have a single holiday for all civil rights crusaders, and, for symbolic reasons, it should be set on July 5, the day after we celebrate out nation's independence. As stated in that post, I had originally considered that Civil Rights Day replace Labor Day, but I have long since settled on the latter holiday giving way to Commerce Day, a day for celebrating all the contributors to our economy and not just labor.

A July 5 holiday for any reason is even a bigger pipe dream than Commerce Day, and the MLK Day tradition is already firmly entrenched, so from this day forward I will recognize the third Monday of January as Civil Rights Day. Dr. King will always get a little extra notice for being the one to inspire the holiday, but the table of honor will feature all civil rights leaders past and present.

Following is my original argument for the holiday:
For years I'd heard news stories about debates over whether or not to establish an official Martin Luther King holiday, and never did anyone report the arguments against. I always suspected that one was that we had way too many day-off-of-work holidays as it was. Having one three weeks after Christmas does seem a bit superfluous. MLK Day would be only the third national holiday named after a person, the others being Christmas and Columbus Day, commemorating the chief catalyst for Western culture and the chief catalyst for extending Western culture to the Americas. (In the case of the latter, make that Western cultures; English and Iberian influences were vastly different.) Some, I imagine, feel that only those rare individuals who have had such a radical impact should have holidays named for them. Dr. King isn't in that league; the only Americans who are are the Founders; their holiday is July 4.

Here's my argument against making January 15 [Update: MLK Day is celebrated on the third Monday of January, which happens to fall on the 15th in 2003] an official holiday: it's not fair to everyone else involved in the civil rights movement. Independence Day isn't just about one guy. We have a holiday for all those who made the Declaration of Independence happen. We should have a federal holiday called Civil Rights Day. It would be like Memorial Day, honoring leaders of past civil rights struggles instead of soldiers of past wars.

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