Martin Luther King, Jr.: Let's Honor, Not Deify Him
January 1, 2002
Can somebody please explain something to me?
Why does there have to be a 'Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard' in every city in America? I recently read in The Spartanburg Herald-Journal that the City Council of Spartanburg has received several requests from residents in one of the local communities about renaming the new St. John's Street extension after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an icon of the civil rights era who was tragically shot and killed in Memphis, Tennesee in 1968. Subsequently, that proposal was turned down in favor of extending John B. White, Sr. Boulevard. However, this has not stopped the pursuit by several members of the City Council who desperately want to name any major street in Spartanburg after Dr. King.
While I respect what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did to help further the cause of civil rights in America, I do not understand why he is any more deserving of having a street named after him than other great Americans who helped shape this country. Great Americans such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Thurgood Marshall, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Billy Graham and Strom Thurmond have contributed as much to this country as Dr. King has. Where is the outcry from people wanting to have streets named after them?
Furthermore, we annually honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his birthday on the third Monday in January. Public schools, federal offices, the postal service and banks across America close to celebrate and honor Dr. King. The bill was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and was signed into law on November 2, 1983 by Ronald Reagan after many years of fiery debate. The first national celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday took place on January 20, 1986.
Other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington and Christopher Columbus, what other Americans have a holiday named after them? The answer is none. Why? Because we could literally fill an entire calendar full of national holidays honoring people who have had a vital role in the development of this country. Instead, we can honor the accomplishments and contributions of the thousands upon thousands of important individuals who have impacted America by educating ourselves on the advancements they made for our country. Merely naming a street after a great American will not educate the people who drive on it about them.
Which brings us back to the issue of naming a street after Martin Luther King, Jr. I believe that honoring a great American for their contribution to our country is one thing. But, lifting a man to a point of deity is blasphemous. Something tells me that if Dr. King were around today, he would not approve of naming a street after himself in every city in America. How ironic is it that Dr. King’s dream of racial equality in America has been stifled by the very people who want to name a street after him. What a shame!