Martin Luther King, Jr. Day thread

President Barack Obama gave a great speech yesterday at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy:

Marc Hansen’s latest column for the Des Moines Register profiles Robert A. Wright, who died last week. Wright

fought in World War II as a first lieutenant, helped integrate the dorms at the University of Iowa, played football for the Hawkeyes, worked as a Des Moines cop, graduated from Drake Law School, become head of the NAACP Iowa-Nebraska Conference and earned the nickname “Mr. Civil Rights.”

So much accomplished, but so much still to be done. Democratic Senate candidate Bob Krause is right to call attention to the shameful disparity in Iowa’s incarceration rates, although solving that problem seems more like a task for state officials than for a U.S. senator. UPDATE: Krause contacted me to point out that “that there is a federal issue in incarcerations. Our neighbors in Minnesota have the same problem at a rate approximate with ours. Disproportionate incarceration falls under the ‘equal protection’ clause of the Constitution.” Point taken.

Speaking of civil rights, it looks like the Obama administration may not push for repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year after all. Given likely Republican gains in Congress in 2010, I think prospects for repeal will be dead for a long time if it doesn’t happen soon.

Any comments about today’s holiday or any issues relating to equality are welcome in this thread.

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  • Personally

    I apologize if this comment is too political on a day when we are suppose to be celebrating one of the greatest humanitarians who ever lived, but I think the Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell makes far more sense than trying to move forward with George Miller’s health care bill.  

    I think it would be a lot more politically feasible than health care reform.  How about re-working NAFTA, anything there? No.

    Democrats deserve to lose some members of Congress, the unfortunate thing is that it will be the Glenn Nyes and not the George Millers of the world.  

  • Yes, we have moved a long way...

    We have an African American in the White House.

    We have same sex marriage in Iowa.

    And when we gather to collectively exercise our rights to free speech, they tend not to club us in the head very often.

    I’ll share my favorite personal anecdote from an MLK Jr Day observance that happened a few years ago at the National Cathedral in DC.

    We were handing out leaflets about an upcoming act of civil disobedience (Iraq War)on the steps of the Cathedral prior to an MLK Day observance. Many of those (white folks all)entering the Cathedral admonished us strongly, stating that this was not the time to bring a political agenda to mind.

    Finally, the Cathedral Police came out and threatened us with arrest if we didn’t stop. We were about out of leaflets, and there didn’t seem to be anybody else coming in to the Cathedral by that time, so we decided to stop, and go in to listen to the speeches by folks and such.

    When we got into the church, there weren’t any seats left, so we ended up standing in the back.  

    At this point, the keynote speaker, Sister Helen Prejean CSJ, came in from a side door, and saw us standing there.  She recognized the friend I was with, a devoted and seasoned activist, and said, “Hi”. Then seeing there were no more seats available, she grabbed us both by the arm and escorted us to the front of the Cathedral, where we ended up sitting with her in the “reserved” front pew.

    A lot of folks seem to be that way. They know the speeches, they know the story, but time and distance seem to have made people forget the church bombings, the police beatings, the time in prisons and jails, the lynchings, and courage it took lots and lots of folks to stand up to the powers that be.  

    ModerateIADem, if there was ever a day to be “too political”, I guess I would have to say, this is it.