Each year, the staff and many of our amazing volunteers at CCDC keep the office doors open and work on this very important holiday, a day dedicated to this true leader in the civil rights movement. Why? This movement has inspired and driven so much of what the disability rights community has done. The author of this blog has devoted a great amount of time studying Dr. King and the civil rights movement and the lawyers who were involved with that movement in order to build CCDC’s Civil Rights Legal Program. To pay tribute to Dr. King, CCDC always works on Martin Luther King Day. We believe the best way to honor this great civil rights hero is to continue championing the causes of people with disabilities by working on this day.
From The King Center website, these words are written:
Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.
CCDC works on this holiday because it makes sense to pay homage to this champion of one of the most effective civil rights movements in the history of this country and the world on the one day that honors his legacy. CCDC chooses to work on this day to continue these same strategies and principles and the principle that all human beings, certainly including people with disabilities, are equal members of the human family. As well as using the strategies outlined above, CCDC also uses strategies like legislative advocacy, our extremely powerful individual advocacy program and legal advocacy to perpetuate its goals and maintain fidelity to these principles.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is famously quoted as saying, “It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless.” Other famous quotations of Dr. King focus on the importance of law and its meaning and significance in the life of all Americans and all human beings. Dr. King also said, “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws . . . .” In fact, if it wasn’t for the remarkable advocacy of Dr. King and his supporters and colleagues, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (banning discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin) and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (designed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented racial discrimination in voting) would never have existed. It is the belief of this author that in the absence of Dr. King’s advocacy in the passage of these laws, laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act would not exist.
On this Martin Luther King Day, and for the rest of the year until the next Martin Luther King Day, CCDC asks you to consider the importance of and reasons for working assiduously and endlessly to ensure that the laws that protect the civil rights of all human beings are not weakened or taken away from us in any way, particularly those that protect the rights of people with disabilities. We are currently living in a country and a world in which a segment of the population would like nothing better than to see civil rights laws and so many other laws and regulations that protect human beings completely dismantled. Rather than attempt to explain the importance of the law in protecting our civil rights and why we must be certain that the gains we have made through extreme sacrifice and struggle are not taken away from us, I believe the words of Dr. King himself at Western Michigan University on December 18 of 1963 which was, in part, regarding the importance of law and legislation in maintaining our fidelity to the equality of all members of the human family serve this purpose. In the words of Dr. King:
Now the other myth that gets around is the idea that legislation cannot really solve the problem and that it has no great role to play in this period of social change because you’ve got to change the heart and you can’t change the heart through legislation. You can’t legislate morals. The job must be done through education and religion.
Well, there’s half-truth involved here.
Certainly, if the problem is to be solved then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart.
But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated.
It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless.
It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also.
So there is a need for executive orders. There is a need for judicial decrees. There is a need for civil rights legislation on the local scale within states and on the national scale from the federal government.
Be sure to contact us on Martin Luther King Day. We will be working.
Kevin W. Williams, CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program Director
January 19, 2020
 Excerpts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Social Injustice” speech at Western Michigan University regarding the need for civil rights legislation. For more information, go to Western Michigan University, University Libraries, MLK at Western.