Cancel MLK Day

Tribune Community, History, Holidays, Law, National, People, Political Analysis, Politics, Texas 6 Comments

Paul F. Petrick, Esq. is an attorney practicing law in Cleveland, Ohio.

CLEVELAND, OH — January 13, 2022 — “June-what?” was the reaction of most Americans last June when they discovered a new federal holiday called Juneteenth National Independence Day would be added to the calendar.  Despite an aggressive year-long campaign to raise awareness of the June 19, 1865 proclamation by the commander of Union troops in Texas heralding the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in that state, a Gallup poll found only 35% of Americans in favor of elevating “Juneteenth” (a peculiar portmanteau of “June” and “Nineteenth”) to federal holiday status.  The same poll showed more than six in ten Americans know only “a little bit” or “nothing at all” about the date’s significance.  Putting aside the obvious contradiction of making such an arcane event into a national holiday and the dubious wisdom of giving government bureaucrats another day of paid vacation, Juneteenth will prove useful in the future.  No, it is not because it will give the June 19th anniversary of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2016 NBA Championship deserving national recognition. Juneteenth’s primary value will be as a readymade replacement for the federal holiday formally known as the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The recordings and related transcripts from the FBI’s electronic surveillance of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. are scheduled to be released by the National Archives on January 31, 2027.  But we do not have to wait that long to learn that King was an accessory to rape at Washington’s Willard Hotel in January 1964.  That bombshell was revealed by King’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer David Garrow in 2019.  Garrow’s shocking discovery came from researching FBI reports and summaries that were surrendered to Congress in the 1970s and released to the public via the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act.  Department of Justice personnel have already publicly verified the genuineness and accuracy of the tapes and transcripts.

The contradictions between King’s private life and his public persona as a man of God have been known for decades. Nevertheless, Americans have heretofore afforded King the status of a secular saint, honoring him for fighting and dying for the principle of racial equality. Hundreds of streets and schools are named in his honor. The National Park Service maintains a four-acre Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in the nation’s capital.  King and George Washington are the only two Americans whose birthdays are federal holidays.  Strangely, Garrow’s recent revelations have not caused King’s commemorations to suffer the same reevaluation that has plagued tributes to other historical figures.  Perhaps King’s heinousness will enter the public consciousness a la the accusations of sexual violence against Bill Cosby, only when stand-up comedian Hannibal Burress mentions it onstage.

Regardless, in five years the public will hear King in his own voice laughing and advising a fellow clergyman committing rape.  Undoubtedly, there will be attempts to prevent the release of the tapes based on their surreptitious nature.  But the evidence against King was obtained lawfully and with the approval of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.  And even if it had not been, there is no escaping the terrible truth.  It is time to judge King by the content of his character.

One of history’s great ironies is that King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the same year he aided and abetted rape. Unfortunately, his famous insistence on nonviolence did not extend to his personal life.  But his public life is something worth celebrating and the streets, schools, and monuments named in his honor should remain.  The tapes may even add to the canon of King’s famous utterances engraved in the granite wall surrounding his D.C. memorial.  But the federal holiday honoring his birth is a different story. A society constantly razing monuments and renaming buildings as it attempts to conform the past to the present is sick. But a society that honors the birthday of a sex criminal is even sicker.

There should be one federal holiday dedicated to the long struggle for racial equality.  Two would be too self-congratulatory considering the work that remains unfinished.  Juneteenth is a particularly poor choice for a federal holiday because even after slavery was eradicated in Texas, there were still states where slavery remained legal.  Juneteenth is a Texas-centric holiday, evidenced by the fact that prior to 2020, only Texas observed Juneteenth as a paid holiday for state employees.  The anniversary of the 13th Amendment’s ratification or Lincoln’s birthday are superior candidates for a federal holiday. If Congress wanted to nationalize a Texas holiday, it should have picked Texas’ permanent state income tax holiday.  But Congress’ blunder will become a blessing when MLK Day goes away.

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Paul F. Petrick is an attorney and former member of the NAACP.

TribuneCancel MLK Day

Comments 6

  1. Hezi, I am very happy to see a spade called a spade. Just because people disagree on what is written does not mean it is wrong. History has erased the abuses of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, JFK and many other because they do not like how the truth reads..

  2. If King was recorded witnessing a rape of a woman by another man, and they believed it was a crime, did the agents take action to stop it or intercede? The agents listening by extension were also witnesses, and did the woman herself bring charges? These are questions that may be answered in 2027.

    The documents also reveal that the FBI with this and other damaging, mostly sexual in nature, information, and in their positions on high, wrote a letter to Dr. King. The letter advises that the FBI had made a determination that Dr King was immoral, and undeserving of any due process, and that he should just end it all and commit suicide for the good of the country.

    The FBI in this era was unabated, and targeted persons for what they believed or determined to be a threat, unfortunately many of their targets were black, Muslim, Jewish, Mexican, Asian or Catholic.

    Thank you.

  3. this article is a is NOT just another opinion..It is the product of hate and a desire to denigrate black history..These are the same kinds of folks that have been indicted for seditious conspiracy..a nod to countering what they perceive as replacement theory..they are concerned with the browning of America..and guess what…demographic change is happening and there isn’t a thing you can do about it

  4. To whom it may concern,

    The documents Mr. Garrow, 66, writes about stem from one of the most notorious abuses of power in F.B.I. history. In November 1963, the bureau, with the permission of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, began wiretapping Dr. King’s home and office telephones. It also placed bugs in his hotel rooms.

    The intent was to monitor Dr. King’s connections with suspected Communists. But as the surveillance began capturing his extramarital sexual activities, that “fig leaf,” as Mr. Garrow puts it in his article, fell away.

    I submit WHY wasn’t this abuse of power EVER investigated? and if the FBI gathered information illegally why is it being recounted as fact by this author??

    Any and All criminal evidence obtained illegally cannot be presented in a court of law, and has the stench of retaliation, malice and character assassination.

    How did this OP-ED even make it to print, and what is Mr Petrick’s objective? and why is his focus on an author who openly documents (based on his “research”) that the FBI had every reason to discredit and malign the civil rights leader.

    This Op-ed is not worthy of the space given.

    Thank you for your time and attention.

  5. Hezi,
    For the life of me I don’t understand why you would give this trash opinion a forum in your publication. It’s pure trash! The hate and lack of honor and decency it displays speaks for itself. We celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday. Let’s focus on the progress he initiated and the further progress our nation needs. The lunatic fringe is everywhere. That doesn’t mean they deserve a soapbox.

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