Movin’ on up

I should be ashamed to admit this, but for some reason I am not.

My first real indication that Martin Luther King Jr. was an important man came from The Jeffersons. It was a retrospective episode in which George and Weezie, the dry cleaning magnates, remembered that April in 1968 when King was killed. The dry cleaning business came under fire during the ensuing riots. Even as a kid, I remember how frightening and touching the episode was…a stark contrast to the silliness of Mr. Bently walking on George’s back or Tom Willis being so painfully white.

Over time I’ve learned a lot about King, but not as much as I should. I learned more when I moved to the South. And frankly, I’ve come to learn more than I like… not about King, but about the social dynamics surrounding his legacy.

I live in a progressive city. It boasts of a vibrant downtown. It is forward-looking. A while back, city leaders made the decision to honor Dr. King with a paid holiday for its employees. It’s the same thing the state of South Carolina does. It’s the same thing the country does. And it is the same thing a majority of the counties in this state do.

That is with one notable exception.

This progressive city is surrounded by the largest and most populated county in the state. It shares its name with its county seat. But the county’s leaders (at least those who were elected to be leaders) do not share the proactive vision. Whether for political reasons or spite, the County Council has repeatedly refused to give its employees a paid holiday in honor of the man who changed this country in a way people of my age will never really understand.

As this explanation of events figures to be pretty long, I’ll let you make the decision to stop here or continue. What follows is more embarassing than learning my history from a sitcom.

But at least I learned.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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