There is such a deluge of critical events going on throughout our country these days, it can seem almost justifiable to minimize some of the annual celebrations. National Thesaurus Day, National Winnie The Pooh Day, and National Peking Duck Day are prime candidates to ignore on January 18, 2021. What shouldn't be minimized - especially in light of the actions of the last year - is Martin Luther King Day.
I could quote article after article about how racial minorities have faced injustice. But doing so will never bring me to fully understand the oppression, prejudice, and persecution that members of our country, state, and even our village are forced to deal with on a daily basis.
The reality is that I'm a very privileged white man living in a predominantly white community. As of 2020, over 95% of the population of Waunakee is STILL considered white. Another, perhaps more important way to look at that is that nearly 5% of the village population is NOT white. That number has been growing, albeit slowly, for years. And that 5% of the village population deserves to be treated with the same respect and opportunity as the other 95%.
The goal of Martin Luther King Day isn't to make whites feel guilt about the privilege that goes along with being white. Honestly, that isn't much different than treating minorities as lesser people, as they have been treated for centuries in this country. Neither scenario is productive. Dr King fought for racial equality. That's a fight that has continued for decades, and is at the core of so much of what we're dealing with politically and socially today. And it's a fight that we need to continue as we move through 2021, and beyond.
In 2020, the Waunakee Village Board voted to close the village offices in honor of Martin Luther King Day. Should that have been done years ago? Perhaps. But the reality is that it has been done now, and as a community, we're taking steps forward, not backward. Let's continue those steps. We've got a long journey still ahead of us.
(Also related: Todd Schmidt chatted with former Waunakee School Board candidate Joel Lewis about MLK day - https://fb.watch/35CtShff4n/)