[ed-i-tawr-ee-uhl, -tohr-] noun:
An article that represents the official viewpoint of a newspaper on a topic of public interest.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day where Americans celebrate how far we have come with regards to civil rights and how we can continue to grow. We believe it is a fitting way to spend the day, considering the man the date is symbolizing.
However, for Arkansas, along with Alabama and Missouri, the day has been tethered to another holiday- Robert E. Lee Day.
We at The Arka Tech believe that while Lee was an honorable man and worthy general, it is important to not forget the ideology that he was fighting for. An ideology that devalued and demoralized black citizens, and that promoted oppression and slavery.
To celebrate Robert E. Lee Day on the same day as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is abhorrent and inexcusable, especially considering that even Lee’s birth-state of Virginia made the decision to separate the two holidays 17 years ago, in 2000.
While we understand the significance of Robert E. Lee to southern culture, with several of us being born and raised in former confederate states, we feel it is important to dedicate the entire day to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to commemorate the changes he made for the country and how he made the country better.
Last week, the Arkansas State Senate voted 24-0 on a plan to remove Robert E. Lee Day from January 19, separating the two holidays.
The proposal will now move to the Arkansas House of Representatives, where its fate will be decided. If approved, Robert E. Lee Day would be moved to the second Saturday in October as a state memorial day.
Also noted in the proposal is an expansion of what is taught in public schools regarding civil rights and the Civil War.
Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchison is in favor of the proposal, telling reporters during a news conference on January 6, “It’s important that that day be distinguished and separate and focused on that civil rights struggle and what he personally did in that effort, the great leader he was during that cause. They need to be distinguished and separate.”
This is not the first time that Arkansas has made a push to separate the two holidays. A similar proposal in 2015, that suggested moving Robert E. Lee Day to November as a state memorial day, was shot down by lawmakers.
One of the lawmakers who shot the law down was representative Jeff Wardlaw. Wardlaw told Reuters, “I’m the kind of guy who does what his constituents tell him they want, and last year they indicated they didn’t want a change.”
Wardlaw is the representative of District 8, which covers Bradley county, along with parts of Ashley, Drew, Cleveland, Dallas and Calhoun counties. For you and your family to indicate that you want the days separated, contact Wardlaw at 870-226-9501.
For those of you in Pope County, Ken Henderson serves as your representative and can be reached at 479-970-4850.
For a full list of Arkansas representatives and to find who represents you, visit www.arkansashouse.org.
Implore your representative to support the separation of the two holidays so that both men can be treated and remembered with the reverence that they deserve.