Asa Hutchinson, the Governor of Arkansas wants to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr and the Confederate General Robert E. Lee on separate days. At present, the two are remembered on a single day. The governor expressed the opinion that the Legislature must offer King a separate, exclusive holiday after they get together for a regular session.
Same day, different ideologies
Arkansas is one of the few states which celebrate the icon of black civil rights and a confederate general on the same day. The above proposal is nothing new. The previous proposals to end this practice has failed a number of times when it was brought to a House committee in 2015. In a news conference held in his office, the governor said that it is vital that the day should be separate and distinguished. It should concentrate only on the civil rights struggle.
The push in 2015 to end the King and Lee joint celebration happened after a photograph of a sign denoting the Lee and Ling holiday was posted online. The post drew criticism and comments as well. The people who support the separation of the two holidays claim that such a combined holiday hurts the image of the state and thus it struggles when attracting business. Other than Arkansas, the other two states commemorating the two historically opposite figures on the same day are Mississipi and Alabama.
Exclusive King Day
The governor's office released a letter Hutchinson sent to the Arkansas NAACP president in July 2015. In the letter, Governor Hutchinson promised to do all that is possible in his power to try for exclusive King day. He did not mention whether a memorial day or a separate holiday must be established celebrating Lee.
Representative Fred Love, who is the sponsor of one proposal to distinguish the holidays, has plans to try once more during he 2017 session. He believes that the comments made by the Republican governor will assist in building the support required in the Legislature. The Legislature is dominated by Republicans. Love is from the Democratic Party and he is elected from Little Rock.
There are many opponents to this move. They offer the argument that if the holidays are separated, then the Comfederate heritage of the state will be diminished. The opponents also argued that there was no proof that Arkansas lost any investment due to the same day celebration cause. A number of lawmakers also holds identical views.