Why CCDC does not close for Martin Luther King Day?
As always, CCDC doors will be open and staff will be at work for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Staff members are welcome to participate in any MLK related events --on the clock --but other than that, it is a work day. Why, people ask, would CCDC of all organizations NOT close for a day dedicated to remember one of our country’s foremost civil rights heroes?
CCDC is a civil rights organization that exists in a movement that gained most, if not all, of its tactics from the civil rights movement. Why in the world would we STOP doing our work to honor that work? Would closing CCDC on Monday further the civil rights movement or do anything for people with disabilities?
It is a good time to remember what Dr. King taught and to renew our commitment to civil rights for all people including people with disabilities. Dr. King preached tolerance and love, but also he was clear that the law won’t enforce itself; we cannot stand still and hope that civil rights will just happen. Also, he made us understand that there are times when one must stand up against and disobey unjust and immoral laws. I have no doubt that had ADAPT not engaged in civil disobedience, we would have a very different life today. Without ADAPT’s protests and civil disobedience, we would not have accessible public transportation; we would not have the ADA; we would not have access to any home; and we would not have community based services.
At our state meeting in December when leaders from all of the disability rights organizations, including, some Arc chapters, Atlantis, ADAPT, rural Independent Living Centers, Family Voices, Parent to Parent, and many more gathered, we discussed our community Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats -- SWOT. (A blog on this coming soon.) A strength of the disability community discussed was our ability to model true inclusion. However, we also identified the need for young advocates as a weakness (the current lack) and threat (the need to ensure the movement continues with new leaders) and an opportunity (to educate and cultivate). During the discussion, some of the younger folks at our meeting said that it really turned them off when us older folks went on and on about how we have been doing the same thing for 20 or 30 years and nothing changed. That was a wakeup call to me.
Of course that kind of negative whining would be a turn off, but more importantly it is not true. We get impatient, and because we see the needs of people still trapped in poverty and sometimes in institutions, the pace of change feels glacier-like; however, if we look at what has changed in 25 years, it is pretty amazing.
King said: We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. We elected our first African American President in 2008. However, today in 2014, people of color continue to experience intolerable discrimination, educational and health disparities, and worse. For example, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), African Americans wait an average of 68 minutes to be seen in an emergency room compared to 50 minutes for whites.
The infant mortality rate is still more than double for African Americans (over 11% down from 14%) than for whites 5.2%. Dr. King said “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”
While some things get better, others do not.
According to the Pew Institute, 2012 data on college entry by race and ethnicity show a striking convergence: After decades of marked disparities in enrolment, about two-thirds of white, black and Hispanic high school completers all were enrolled in college. But significant differences remain in completing high school: As of the 2009-10 academic year, the average freshman graduation rate in U.S. public high schools was 93.5% for Asian/Pacific Islanders, 83% for whites, 71.4% for Hispanics and 66.1% for blacks.
In his letter from Birmingham, UK, King wrote that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
So things are better, but not equal -- and remember the civil rights act was passed in 1964. The ADA was passed in 1990. So while we continue to have dismal statistics on issues like employment (fewer than 20% of us are employed at all), things are getting better. We too now at least have a law -- so when discrimination occurs, we can try to do to something about it. Before the ADA (and, in part, Section 504) we did not have a way to enforce discrimination. CCDC was founded in 1990 to make the ADA work in Colorado. We have done so, and we will continue to do so and will not stop until Dr. King’s dream of equality for all people is achieved. Discrimination does not happen in a vacuum! While disability discrimination is our focus, we also work with our allies in communities of color, including immigrant and refugee communities and speak out against all discrimination--whether intentional or not. My favorite King quote is, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Dr. King taught us many lessons--and all civil rights workers should take time to reflect on his wisdom. So--take some time, read or listen to any of his speeches, but please--honor his vision by doing the work. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.