In the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, there is a noticeable series of events which bring into question the national attitude surrounding an observance that is celebrated as a moment for the country to reflect on it history of racial animus – and reconciliation. However, there is a trend some observers point to as a sign of disrespect to King’s legacy, from the opening of schools in the Southeastern United States to make up for snow days, to a bomb found at a local King day parade in Spokane, Washington, to bizarre and offensive comments made by two newly elected Republican governors.
The comments, controversy and bomb threat come in the wake of a mass-murder shooting spree in Tuscon, Arizona in which a 22-year old gunman targeted a sitting Congresswoman in broad daylight at a public constituent event.
Emily Rahuala reports in Time Magazine on the bomb threat which authorities report could have killed “hundreds” of innocent people if it had detonated:
In what feels like a callous affront to King’s legacy of non-violence, an improvised bomb was placed along the Martin Luther King Day parade route in downtown Spokane, Washington on Monday.
The suspicious backpack, which contained an improvised explosive device (IED) and two t-shirts, was found less than an hour before the festivities began. The march was re-routed and the bomb diffused.
Given the timing and the placement of the bomb, the F.B.I. believes the motive was political: “We’re certainly approaching it as a potential domestic terrorism event at this point,” said spokesman.“Whether the motive was racial or an individual was being targeted, it’s too soon to say.”
In Maine, newly elected Republican Governor Paul LePage sparked controversy with his inflammatory rhetoric against a local NAACP chapter surrounding King holiday events.
Boycotts are in the headlines for places such as Charlotte, NC and Atlanta, GA as some Black leaders are simmering over the decision by some southern school districts to keep schools open during the King holiday. Reports Jim Morrill in the Sacramento Bee:
At a Martin Luther King Jr. Day protest over school policies, the head of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP Monday announced a campaign to urge the CIAA basketball tournament and other groups to boycott the city.
Pledging to “expose Charlotte for the racist bastion it is,” NAACP President Kojo Nantambu announced a drive to keep the CIAA, NCAA, PGA “and any other ‘A”‘ from coming to Charlotte.
He also said his group would ask the national NAACP to consider asking the Democratic Party not to hold its 2012 convention in Charlotte.
His comments came just before he led around 100 people on a march through uptown to protest the local school system’s decision to hold classes on the King holiday to make up for days lost to snow.
In Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley has not even experienced a full week in office yet before he’s become a lightning rod for controversy. Reports Jay Reeves in the Associated Press:
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley told a church crowd just moments into his new administration that those who have not accepted Jesus as their savior are not his brothers and sisters, shocking some critics who questioned Tuesday whether he can be fair to non-Christians.
“Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother,” Bentley said Monday, his inauguration day, according to The Birmingham News.
Speaking at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church [the church where King served as pastor] after the official inaugural ceremony, Bentley told the crowd that he considered anyone who believed in Jesus to be his brothers and sisters regardless of color, but anyone who isn’t a Christian doesn’t have that same relationship to him.