In a recent article, a community and school are at odds on how to appropriately celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This type of opposition has played out since the inception of this important day. Schools should celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by focusing on the primary vehicle of racism which is the outcome of the devastating racial relationships in the classroom.

According to the article, Sorry Breitbart–White People Should Talk About Race, students at the New Trier High School will attend seminars that focus on racial injustice. The plan has meet opposition from a conservative news agency as well as other community members which include parents too.

The problem is that inadequate racial relationships is not a product of information, it is a product of relationships. Schools that attempt to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by providing information only are covering up the real cause of racism in America.

What are some of the traditional ways that schools celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

One of the more acceptable ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day is to close the school. Schools close to observe the federal holiday for which many States do not have to observe the federal holiday. It means that schools in Washington, DC must close as well as the United State Post Office, banks, Wall Street and all federal buildings.

With the day off, we would hope that most students will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by attending a local event that celebrates this federal holiday. We know that this is not the case. Most people choose to sleep late, relax through the entire day, or complete some unfinished business.

For those schools that choose to remain open for Martin Luther King Jr. Day they claim that they are trying to make up for potential lost snow days. Some states choose to ignore the holiday which means that local school districts must remain open. Whether a school chooses to close or remain open we must keep in mind the purpose of celebrating Martin Luther King’s Day.

What is the purpose of celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

According to Coretta Scott King, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America. We commemorate as well the timeless values he taught us through his example — the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King’s character and empowered his leadership. On this holiday, we commemorate the universal, unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit.

We commemorate Dr. King’s inspiring words, because his voice and his vision filled a great void in our nation, and answered our collective longing to become a country that truly lived by its noblest principles. Yet, Dr. King knew that it wasn’t enough just to talk the talk, that he had to walk the walk for his words to be credible. And so we commemorate on this holiday the man of action, who put his life on the line for freedom and justice every day, the man who braved threats and jail and beatings and who ultimately paid the highest price to make democracy a reality for all Americans.

The King Holiday honors the life and contributions of America’s greatest champion of racial justice and equality, the leader who not only dreamed of a color-blind society, but who also lead a movement that achieved historic reforms to help make it a reality.

School must become more involved in championing the cause for racial justice and equality. This begins in the classroom regarding the relationship between the Black students and the White teacher. It is this relationships that is the most damaging to the efforts of many Black students resulting in the continued necessity to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D. PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034


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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology

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