Fans Flames of Race Hatred With Focus on MLKing/Robert E. Lee Day

by Warner Todd Huston – January 25, 2008.

The day after we celebrated the national holiday of the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Associated Press published a story seemingly meant to stir race hatred by bringing up the fact that in the state of Arkansas the memorial recognition of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s birthday is on the same day as that of King’s observance there. Trying to fan the flames of racism by bringing up a Confederate general, the AP even seems to complain that Martin Luther King Drive in Little Rock, Arkansas is a shorter street than Robert E. Lee Avenue! How petty of the AP, eh? It’s all not very I-have-a-dreamish of the AP to so pointlessly fan these race flames, is it?

With the pointed headline, "Arkansas Lauds MLK, Gen. Lee on Same Day," and reminding us that King is a "slain civil rights leader," the AP wags a finger and lets us know about the confluence of celebration of the two men’s birthdays.

While the nation honors the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, three states celebrate another man as well. In Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi, the slain civil rights leader shares a state holiday with Robert E. Lee, commanding officer of the Confederate Army.

And, yes, the AP did delight in pointing out that King’s street is shorter than Lee’s…

Streets bearing their names intersect in Little Rock, though Lee Avenue is much longer than King Drive.

Now, I’ve always heard that it isn’t the length of the street that matters, it’s the…. well, you know. Still, this seems a petty factoid to point out and also one that doesn’t seem to hold any real meaning. How exactly does the length of a street equate to the relative importance of the person for whom it is named?

The AP does their best to stir controversy over this apparently woeful coupling of Lee’s and King’s days in Arkansas. They try to get all sorts of outraged reaction on the fact, but find few takers.

First they attempt to get Arkansas state Senator Tracy Steele to break bad on general R.E.Lee, but Steele says, "there’s not been the type of community outcry" about it. They mention that the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette runs a page long Lee editorial as well as a King editorial every year and no one is bothered by it. Even the quote from the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People didn’t exactly express any outrage over the whole thing.

So the question becomes… what the heck is the AP’s point? After all, no one is all hot and bothered by it, so why the article? There’s no controversy, no outrage, no question that these states wish to celebrate the lives of both men.

All in all, the AP article neither presents an argument, nor reports on anything of note.

So what could be AP’s ultimate reasoning for this piece but to stir outrage about coupling a Confederate general’s birthday with that of the "slain civil rights leader"? It seems that the AP is trying to use their pulpit as a national news source to stir other areas of the country against the practice in Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi.

Stirring the pot, it’s called.

Well thanks for the "help" there, AP. But, here’s an idea… try writing about news instead of trying to create it.

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