Sometimes, you wonder: Is this a “real” newspaper or The Onion you’re reading?
Take, for instance, the lead paragraph of an article this week in The Journal Times in Racine:
“Racine Unified has scaled back support for an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in part because of the organizing student group’s political activism, district Superintendent Ann Laing said.”
Oh my. An MLKing event is being criticized because student activists are involved. The civil rights leader must be turning over in his grave with embarrassment at the school district’s stance.
It turns out that Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES) is spearheading the MLKing event, which is on the MLKing holiday. YES is the student arm of the non-profit immigrant and workers’ rights group Voces de la Frontera, and has organized an MLKing Day celebration in Racine for the past three years.
The article in The Journal Times goes on to cite the complaints against YES and Voces.
• YES supports immigrant rights and collective bargaining. (Does the Racine school district realize that King was assassinated while in Memphis supporting striking sanitation workers and their demand for union recognition?)
• YES supports in-state tuition for undocumented students who graduated from a Wisconsin high school. (Such a measure passed under the Doyle administration, only to be rescinded after Gov. Scott Walker took office.)
Voces organized efforts for students to go door-to-door on election days and encourage people to vote. (Were Racine administrators asleep during history lessons on the Voting Rights Act, one of the seminal struggles of the Civil Rights Movement?)
The controversy started in the fall after right-wing talk radio host Mark Belling in Milwaukee launched a campaign against YES’s involvement in Racine’s MLKing celebration. The Racine school district, among others, immediately started withdrawing support, even though they had backed previous years' celebrations.
MLKing dedicated his life to organizing for political change. It’s a shame that Racine school officials lack both civic courage and an understanding of U.S. history — and feel compelled to listen more to Mark Belling than their own students.
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This blog is cross-posted at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Purple Wisconsin project.