Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Arizona can thank National Football League for Martin Luther King holiday

Russell Pearce, JT Ready
Racism is still rampant in Arizona evidenced by the anti-immigration law SB-1070 passed in 2010 by deposed State Sen. Russell Pearce.  The state finally got rid of the likes of him, surrounded by his buddy J.T. Ready, racist and neo-Nazi from Pearce’s hometown of Mesa, AZ.  Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Pearce supporter, has his own problems with racial discrimination from his raids on towns in his county for the sole purpose of harassing Hispanics.

Russell Pearce, Sheriff Arpaio

The people of Arizona must agree with this dogma because they elected Arpaio Sheriff in 1992 and he is still in office.  Pearce was elected to the Arizona legislature in 2000 and served there eleven years before he was recalled in November of 2011.  They both come from solid Arizona roots dating back to 1987 when Gov. Evan Mecham rescinded the former Governor Bruce Babbitt’s decision to honor Martin Luther King with an Arizona holiday.

That was almost 25 years ago but the Rev. Warren H. Stewart still remembers the struggle that eventually ended up with a MLK holiday in Arizona.  Stewart, a prominent Phoenix pastor who was the face of the movement then, says the state legislature viewed King as a Black hero but also as an agitator.  In those days African-Americans represented only 3 percent of the population.  But in 1990 voters went to the polls to decide whether or not King should have his holiday.  The proposition failed and Stewart felt he had done all he could.

Below is a must see video of Evan Mecham racism and other stupidity:

But then the football hit the fan.  By now Arizona had a reputation for being a racial battleground.  The state was boycotted by well know musicians and national conventions decided to take their business elsewhere.  However, it was the cancellation by the NFL of the 1993 Super Bowl scheduled to be played in Sun Devil stadium that broke the racists’ backs.  The game was moved to Pasadena, California. 

Rev. Stewart set things in motion again but didn’t like the idea that the change of the state’s attitude was due almost entirely to the loss of the Super Bowl.  Stewart took his dilemma to apartheid activist Leon Howard Sullivan who lived in Scottsdale and who said the Reverend had piqued the consciences of the business community, followed by his admonition to take their money because it was for a good cause. 

Stewart did and ran a campaign resulting in MLK Day being approved by a vote in 1992.  Arizona was the only state that had to put this holiday to a vote after a 1986 decision by President Ronald Reagan naming it as a national holiday.  On the first King Holiday in January of 1993, 19,000 Arizonans celebrated, joined by civil-rights activist Rosa Parks and musician Stevie Wonder.  Phoenix won the Super Bowl for 1996.

Rev. Stewart still believed the King Holiday was only a symbol and much still needed to be done for Arizona to move “from symbol to substance” in the treatment of all races and ethnicities.  Just recently he said that after 20 years this still has not happened.  He mentioned the anti-immigration bill SB-1070 and said the incivility of politics today is turning Martin Luther King’s dream into a nightmare. 

My gut tells me that if Arizona doesn’t wake up soon from this horrible dream and get rid of those in state government that harbor those prejudices, there won’t be enough advertising possible to draw tourists and new business back to the state.

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