King made some enemies in his time, and eventually was assassinated by some nobody while on a brief stint advocating for sanitation workers in Memphis.
This is common knowledge, and King's looming presence in American history is the reason a lot of people have the day off today. Some use it as a time of reflection. Others just treat the holiday as an excuse to be entertained or have fun.
King was into both reflection and having a good time – he was, legendarily, a hit at parties; the last thing he did before he was assassinated was instigate a hotel room pillow fight with friends -- so there's no need to feel bad about either.
The Jordan High School boys basketball team was supposed to play at Patrick Henry High School in north Minneapolis at 5 p.m. tonight. But, in light of last week's ugly incident, of white exurban kids flashing a pro-Trump sign at a mostly-minority city school's team, the school district has decided their boys will stay home for the day.
The presence of Jordan's basketball team would “detract” from the “MLK Showcase,” Jordan superintendent Matthew Helgerson said in a statement yesterday. And perhaps it might've. There may be ulterior motives to this decision. The Star Tribune reports Patrick Henry coach Jamil Jackson says he'd heard Jordan's players were “fearful something might happen to the players” if they visited Minneapolis.
Something already did happen, by the way, and it was pretty offensive, and the city kids – Roosevelt's, in this instance – comported themselves with decency and composure. It was the kids from exurban Jordan who acted like assholes and should be ashamed.
Helgerson, the Jordan superintendent, denied that fear of some sort of retaliation played any part in the decision to keep that team out of Minneapolis today. Ironic, isn't it, that this would be playing out on MLK Day, of all days, a celebration of the life and work of a gregarious and nonviolent leader... who was eventually struck down by a racist.
Jackson, the Patrick Henry coach, says he has sympathy for the Jordan boys. Here's a pretty important paragraph from that Star Tribune story.
Jackson said he feels badly for the Jordan players, who “will be thinking the entire day,” when the slain civil rights leader is remembered, “about why they are not playing and every aspect of that, from black and white issues to basketball issues.”
That's some pretty deep, reflective thinking, the sort that Martin Luther King himself probably would've appreciated. King played intramural basketball at Morehouse, and has been described as “a tiger on the court,” who would “run over you,” despite his being undersized.
He also would've understood why some young teams made up mostly of people of color would choose to stay in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem. (By the time he died, even Jackie Robinson wasn't a big fan of the Anthem. And he was an Eisenhower Republican!)
King was practiced at protesting authorities in his country, which he thought was too racist and too willing to go to war. In hindsight, he was damn right.
The question is, as always: What would he think of us now? We're afraid to answer that question, but Martin, ever the optimist, would probably say something along the lines of: It looks bad ... but could be better if we all work together. And act out of love instead of fear.
Enjoy your MLK Day however you choose, but we could think of worse ways to mark the occasion than watching young kids play basketball.
In a related story, the Patrick Henry High School boys basketball has a record of 8-6, and will play Thomas Edison High School on Thursday at 7 p.m. You should go if you're available – it'll probably be a fun time.