According to a study last year, fewer than 25 percent of
corporations give their workers the day off on Martin Luther King,
Jr.'s birthday. When asked why, corporate executives give a litany
of excuses. 'They claim they need to stay open to be competitive,'
writes Earl Ofari Hutchinson on the AlterNet news
service. 'They say that people need to shop on that day. Or they
insist that no one has ever complained to them about not
celebrating the day.' Whatever their excuse, says Hutchinson,
corporate America's blind-eye to the King holiday is
This is especially true, Hutchinson argues, when you consider that corporate America has benefited disproportionately from the gains of the civil rights movement. 'The movement smashed the barriers of legal segregation in employment and education. This opened the corporate door for talented, and educated minorities and women, made diversity a watchword at many firms, and vastly increased the income and earnings of blacks, minorities, and women.' Growing minority income has opened up vast new consumer markets and fattened many corporate wallets.
Hutchinson blames corporate America's cold shoulder to Dr. King on both 'the misguided belief by many Americans' that the civil rights movement was simply 'by and for blacks,' and the continuing legacy of deep-seated corporate racism in hiring and promotions. 'If many corporations continue to downplay or flat-out deny racial discrimination in their operations,' Hutchinson concludes, 'then it's no surprise that they snub the civil rights movement, and it's most prominent symbol, Dr. King.'