PHOENIX, Ariz. – Following a series of recent race-related controversies, Arizona is again in the middle of a political storm following Governor Jan Bewer’s announcement that the state is renaming the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday “Go Back To Work Monday.”
Brewer denied that the move was racially motivated, although Arizona has a checkered history with the Holiday: boycotts followed the state’s decision to rescind MLK day in 1987, and it was only reinstated in 1992 when it threatened to overshadow the Super Bowl being held in Phoenix. Although the governor was adamant that the move was solely designed to help keep the economy moving, she did acknowledge that the state senate’s decision to add a holiday commemorating the birthday of Eugene “Bull” Connor – the Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham, Alabama, who sicked dogs and fire hoses on non-violent marchers led by Dr. King – did send a mixed message.
Senator John McCain – who, along with 40 percent of his Republican colleagues – voted against commemorating King’s birthday with a federal holiday in 1983, supported his state’s decision to rename the day. “Like many Americans, I consider Dr. King to be a hero, but Bull Connor helped to make King’s legacy so it only seems fair to acknowledge that with a holiday of his own.” McCain went on to argue that King would approve, “as he wanted African-Americans to be able to work – and by removing the holiday, that’s exactly what they’ll be doing.”
Arizona’s state senate also added the new holidays of “Sand Day,” “Jimmy Eat World Day” and “Arizona Day,” although the governor was quick to point out that the last one was celebrating iced tea, and not the state itself, adding: “We’re not that arrogant” before coughing the word “Nevada.”