Martin Luther King Jr. and the Tyranny of Having the Day Off

A lot of white people hate having the day off from work or school.

That’s the impression I get every year around this time.  I’ll ask somebody about the week ahead an get an answer that goes something like this.

“Well, we’re off Monday because of the King holiday.”  This is never said in the tone of, “Yay!  We’re off Monday!  Let’s go eat some snow cones!” but more in the tone of “I’m not going in on Monday because I have to go get a root canal and the nail on my big toe removed.”  It’s been close to half a century since Dr. Martin Luther King was shot down and I still run in to people who act as if honoring the man is on par with Dennis Rodman Day or Timmy McVeigh Day.

By no means was Dr. King a perfect man.  Neither am I, neither or you and neither are the men we honor on President’s Day.  But Dr. King was a leader who made great sacrifices for people who were being treated unjustly.  Before you poo poo the sacrifices Dr. King made, consider how you would like seeing your kids told to use a different water fountain or a different seat on the bus and then being tracked by the FBI and followed by thugs when you decided to peacefully do something about it.  I’ve seen affluent parents almost start riots because their kids didn’t get to start in a baseball game so I’m sure the different water fountains and bus seats wouldn’t go over too well.

I certainly wouldn’t agree with every detail of Dr. King’s theology.  Of course, if I were to sit down with Thomas Jefferson we’d have our fair share of theological disputes as well.  Let’s just hope we were able to use my Bible since Jefferson physically removed any passages in his Bible dealing with the miraculous.  That includes taking the scissors to the part where Jesus rises from the grave.  But this doesn’t keep me from being thankful for Jefferson’s impact on our nation.  Why can’t we do the same with Dr. King?

The real problem isn’t that some of my fellow caucasians hate having days off from school and work.  It’s much worse than that.  There’s no doubt that racism plays a part in all of this but that word has been thrown around so much that in a lot of ways it’s lost it’s meaning.  We must be more specific.  We must go deeper.  We must deal with the heart.  There’s a heart of selfishness that lies behind those eyes that roll every time MLK Day is brought up.  It’s a heart that relishes in the beauty of a free society where my kids can drink and sit wherever they want but looks away when your kids don’t enjoy the same privileges.

And some might counter with, “Fine, but that’s not an issue we have to deal with anymore. We all get to use the same seats and water fountains now.  Those problems are half a century old.  Let’s move on.”  And, in a big way, that counter argument would be a correct one.  Thank you, Dr. King.

No one’s asking anyone to march in a parade.  For crying out loud, it’s just a day off.  But, you should know that if you call yourself a Christian, those rolled eyes and crude comments in response to MLK Day send out a completely different message.  If John saw those rolled eyes, I think he’d tell us that “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).

I want my sons to be leaders.  I want them to make sacrifices for the good of others even if it means the loss of what is precious to them.  The ultimate example of this is the man Jesus Christ.  But when they consider examples from the ranks of flawed men like their dad, I hope they look to Dr. Martin Luther King.