MLK Day: a day for the left or right?

MLK Day should be regarded as a bi-partisan issue instead of a liberal one

Teddy Corcoran

I will never forget a conversation I heard between a couple of strangers just a few years ago. “Where’s Mike going?” Asked one. “To some liberal thing,” replied the other in a rather dismissive manner. The next day, upon hearing about local events, I found out what that “liberal thing” was: a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.

This notion troubled me then, and it troubles me now. Just how politicized has the issue of race become? Why is it that the mere celebration of Dr. King has become synonymous with liberal values and concerns? Why is it that the mere examination or interest in modern day inequalities is somehow not conservative?

I find this issue particularly frustrating because I think it is an act of categorizing and dividing the population in a way that simply is not necessary. It seems to me that an interest in going to a talk about Martin Luther King is a rather bi-partisan matter. It would seem that in no way would the celebration or admiration of Dr. King’s life make anyone, in any way, “less conservative.”

Maybe I’m naïve

In thinking about the recent talk that NAACP chair Roslyn Brock gave on Martin Luther King, and the relatively small attendance of students, the question for me arose once again.

To what extent is going to the event a political statement? To what degree is an interest in race a “liberal” one? If Washington and Lee had a less conservative student body, would Lenfest have been filled that evening? I have no answers, but continue to wonder.

I should of course note that students do not attend talks on all sorts of topics and issues, regardless of their ideological beliefs, because they simply aren’t interested or do not feel they have spare time. I know I have certainly felt that way, and have blown off numerous speeches in the past because I was simply too busy or too tired. This may simply have been the case when Roslyn Brock came to speak.

That being said, the extent to which students think about race and Martin Luther King Jr. at this campus cannot be ignored. Both through the recent voting about Martin Luther King Day, as well as long standing national debates, racial matters have become highly politicized, and an interest in race has largely been filed away as a liberal concern.

To acknowledge racial injustices or to seek to to improve the racial climate becomes synonymous with declaring oneself as liberal, and perhaps more importantly, not conservative. This, I think, is problematic, because a strong set of conservative values need not conflict in any way with an interest in race, in promoting equality, or in celebrating Dr. King’s legacy.

Maybe I’m naïve.