One thing being seldom mentioned, though, is AFFIRMATIVE ACTION.
King was an outspoken and ardent supporter of affirmative action as one of his, and the Civil Rights Movement's, main priorities because King understood that without affirmative action people of color and women would forever remain "last hired, first fired;" and with the capitalist economy now on the skids to oblivion this is more true than ever as we see the massive increase in unemployment and its associated poverty in communities of people of color with Indian Reservations the main examples of how institutionalized racism is still a major, shameful factor in American society with unemployment rates of over 65% and poverty rates of over 80%.
In response to one independent alternative newspaper that is a mouthpiece for the Obama Administration and the Democrats, I posted this response to their lead article about Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Interesting article; typical of what we are getting from this new People's World.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for affirmative action in hiring as one of his top priorities; yet, the term "Affirmative Action" is not mentioned in this article.
Why isn't affirmative action mentioned? Because Barack Obama, his Administration and the Democrats have decided not to enforce affirmative action where public funds and these "stimulus funds" are being spent on public works projects?
I have noticed in other articles in the People's World the term--- and demand for--- "affirmative action" is missing, especially very noticeable in the articles about the AFL-CIO press conferences and jobs (see my post below).
Perhaps lack of attention to the need for affirmative action is just an oversight; on the other hand, perhaps it reflects the general withdrawal from the struggles of working people for justice and equality.
One has to wonder how it is that Affirmative Action is being left out of so many of the discussions about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
No doubt Martin Luther King, Jr. would have had a great deal to say about how intentionally ignoring the implementation and enforcement of affirmative action is a gross act of racism contributing to the denial of the most basic human right--- the right to a job with real living wages.
What might Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have had to say about the City of Bemidji hiring a racist bigot like Rita Albrecht as the head of its City Planning Department only to have her intentionally ignore the need for affirmative action in hiring for the planning, construction, management, staffing and maintenance of the Bemidji Regional Event Center?
I wonder what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have said about the two-million casino workers employed in the smoke-filled casinos of the Indian Gaming Industry receiving poverty wages and forced to work without any rights under state or federal labor laws as these employers invoke "sovereignty" to justify such an injustice with the objective of these casino managements being to insure a pool of cheap labor? I doubt King would have ignored the fact that Democrats reap huge campaign contributions in return for turning their heads in indifference to this injustice that has further served to entrench institutionalized racism in this country as these same politicians can't seem to get the words "affirmative action" to roll off their tongues and pass though their lips.
Martin Luther King, Jr. never would have remained silent knowing that casino workers in Minnesota, as one of their terms and conditions of employment to work in smoke-filled casino at poverty wages without any rights, are forced to sign a statement acknowledging they understand that they will immediately be terminated and fired from employment should they engage in union organizing activity.
As a member of the NAACP Youth Council and Chair of its Labor Committee--- we leafleted, shouted, marched, picketed, boycotted, were beat up by company security and the police in protesting against racist hiring policies of numerous employers in Grand Rapids, Michigan until they agreed to hire people of color--- now, Obama, the Democrats and the "leaders" of organized labor have turned their backs on affirmative action.
It is time to take the struggle for affirmative action back out into the streets.
Join with us in demanding that affirmative action policies be implemented in the staffing and maintenance of the Bemidji Regional Event Center and that a penalty in the form of additional hiring of people of color be added. Native American Indians should comprise no less than 60% of the management, staffing and maintenance of those hired to operate the Bemidji Regional Event Center.
Former United States Senator Mark Dayton pledged at the Governor's Forum on Native American Indian Issues in Bemidji on January 14, that as part of his campaign for Minnesota Governor he would make affirmative action in hiring at the Bemidji Regional Event Center one of his priorities.
Mark Dayton will be in Bemidji again, this Thursday--- January 21--- at the Beaux Arts Ballroom in Hobson Union on the Bemidji State University campus sponsored by AFSCME Local 1949 which has remained silent as institutionalized racism dominates the social, political and economic life of Bemidji which, over the years, has been referred to as, "the most racist city in North America;" and in refusing to enforce affirmative action policies in hiring in the construction, management, staffing and maintenance of the Bemidji Regional Event Center, the largest public works project in the area in many decades, Bemidji elected and appointed public officials have once again demonstrated that Bemidji, Minnesota, is, in fact, the most racist city in North America; probably not a boast Bemidji's mayor will be making tomorrow in his state of the city speech... I wonder if Bemidji Mayor Richard Lehmann will make mention of this "distinction" he has helped the City to earn.
Organizations like the Minnesota American Civil Liberties Union and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council have remained silent. The Tribal governments have also remained silent.
Mayor Lehman is known to be pretty chummy with John McCarthy who heads up the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association which is angling to bus patrons from the Bemidji Regional Event Center to the six nearby casinos where the one-armed bandits can finish cleaning them out after Ticket Master is done with them.
No doubt all these hypocrites will wax eloquent about what a great man Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was as they perpetuate the racist injustices which are the products of institutionalized racism from which these politicians turn their heads in indifference as John McCarthy of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association sticks a wad of cash into their greedy, racist, corrupt outstretched hands.
Why would John McCarthy of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association have written a letter defending the removal of racist City Planner Rita Albrecht after she blatantly refused to make affirmative action in hiring part of the planning surrounding the Bemidji Regional Event Center?
As for the management of the Bemidji Regional Event Center; doesn't anyone find it strange that tax-payers have footed the bill for everything and now a private management firm like VenuWorks, known for its racist and anti-union policies, has been contracted with and will be allowed to walk off with all the profits?
The BREC has presented an interesting chain of events thoroughly racist from beginning to end--- all paid for with tax-dollars, only to have VenuWorks walk off with the profits. Could not the BREC have been publicly managed after having been publicly financed?
An important question on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day:
Did the Bemidji Mayor Richard Lehmann or City Manager John Chattin or City Planner Rita Albrecht tell VenuWorks that it did not have to implement affirmative action policies in hiring just like court records show the construction firm of Kraus-Anderson was advised when they asked if there was an affirmative action policy? Maybe VenuWorks' on-site Manager, Mr. LeBarron, would like to comment?
The City of Bemidji is already a party to what appears to be heading in the direction of a long, drawn out and expensive court battle as they are being sued by the Native American Labor Union #12 and its Business Manager, Gregory W. Paquin, who is also a Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party (MNDFL) candidate for Minnesota State Senate District 4; suing over their failure to implement affirmative action in the planning and construction phase of the BREC.
It seems these city officials are such a bunch of arrogant racists that they don't care how many times they are going to be dragged into court--- like the racist George Wallace, who was also a Democrat; they are just going to continue to hinder the struggle for human rights and full equality until they are forced to implement affirmative action.
Did anyone ever stop to think that what tax-payers fund, tax-payers should own--- including the profits.
The Bemidji Regional Event Center has already turned out to be one more corrupt, racist, boon-doggle in Northern Minnesota and it hasn't even opened its doors yet... once its doors are opened, will Native American Indians continue to be treated in the same racist manner as in other establishments in Bemidji, Minnesota... why stop with planning, construction, staffing and maintenance... the City of Bemidji might just as well extend its racism to the BREC patrons, too... and, no doubt, it will if past racist practices tell us anything.
Mr. Frank Dickenson of The Anishinabe Coalition for Peace and Justice showed what it takes to get justice in the City of Bemidji after a small Native American Indian child was viciously physically assaulted in a racist attack at the McDonald's Restaurant just down the street from where the Bemidji Regional Event Center is going up when he helped to organize and lead a demonstration at McDonald's... apparently Bemidji Mayor Richard Lehmann isn't going to give affirmative action in hiring at the BREC any consideration until he sees people out in the streets demonstrating for justice and equality in hiring... Mayor Lehmann might want to consider what kind of image is being created for the City of Bemidji which claims it is the "crown jewel" of northern Minnesota's tourism industry... especially if tourists are greeted by protesters carrying signs:
"Welcome to the City of Bemidji; the most racist city in North America."
Adding racist insult to racist injury, is the fact that not one single Native American Indian has a seat in the Minnesota State House or Senate nor on its Congressional or Senate delegation at the national level in spite of having one of the largest Native American Indian populations of any state in the country.
Many people must find it noteworthy--- even if the media (mainstream or alternative) doesn't find it newsworthy that a racist, rich white man like John McCarthy heads up the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) and he doles out the funds derived from an Indian Gaming Industry from which not one single Native American Indian owns a solitary, single slot machine and then turns around and takes this money and doles it out to politicians who are so racist and corrupt they refuse to implement affirmative action policies in hiring to combat racist unemployment and racist poverty. Now, this is something for all of us to think about as we celebrate the life and struggles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.--- who really was a community organizer.
And then, this same John McCarthy raises his voice in protest by taking up his pen to write a "Letter to the Editor" of the Bemidji Pioneer, to protest the firing of the racist City Planner, Rita Albrecht. Not once has John McCarthy or the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association spoken up for the enforcement of affirmative action.
Yes, there certainly is a lot to ponder as we celebrate the life--- and struggles--- of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on this National Holiday--- which had to be fought and struggled for.
Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.--- A life of community organizing and struggle...
Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council