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Martin Luther King Jr. Day & The Bootstrap Message

    Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of January. It celebrates the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr., an influential American civil rights leader. Today, I celebrate with a fluffy cotton Japanese cheesecake bought from a local bakery, owned by a Hispanic immigrant, who decided to sell a type of sponge cake that originated from Hakata, Fukuoka, Japan out of her small business from Brownsville, Texas, and oh, it's delicious. 

    When Dr. King stood to lead a movement about racial injustice, he did it with heart, knowing that there was still a root problem in America. An NBC News reporter interviewed King asking about the difference between the negro as an immigrant as opposed to any other type of immigrant that came to America. Martin Luther King Jr. went on to explain why black Americans faced more obstacles than white European immigrants. He said, "White America must see that no other ethnic group has been a slave on American soil. That is one thing that other immigrant groups haven't had to face."

    Dr. King defended how black Americans, even after slavery was abolished by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, did not have advantages such as having been given free land in the west and the mid-west to get started on an economic base. He's said, "...emancipation for the negro was really freedom to hunger. It was freedom to the winds and rains of heaven...without food to eat or land to cultivate and therefore it was freedom and famine at the same time." King, using charismatic and transformational leadership, defended the argument of white Americans that told, "...the negro to lift himself by his own bootstraps." He continued to say, "I believe we ought to do all that we can and seek to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps but it's a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps...many negros by the thousands and millions have been left bootless as a result of all these years of oppression...and as a result, a society that deliberately made his color a stigma and something worthless and degrading."

    This is where I cue the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For HR, we follow, abide, and comply with rules that shape policies and practices in the workplace based on key legislation influenced by Martin Luther King Jr., for example, the law was amended and now requires the completion of the EEO-1 Survey for the execution, retention, and preservation of records that reports to the EEOC and is the legal basis of Title VII. The law compels us to comply with non-discriminatory practices. 

    Oftentimes, managing and operating the human resources function can become transactional, but it's Martin Luther King Day that reminds us of why it is we do what we do. Historically, there is a meaning to the practice and it always feels good to know the basis of our freedoms derived from rights. May we always objectively honor the sacrifices that have been made before us. I'm thankful for Dr. King and can appreciate the thousands and millions of people that now can strap their own boots regardless of color. 

    SHRM-RGV, Sandra Charles-Garza, President-Elect

    Note: This blog post was inspired by the NBC News Facebook post on January 15, 2019, "MLK: "It's a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his bootstraps."