Monday, January 26, 2015

MLK Jr. Day - More Than Just a Day

Hello all and Happy Monday!  As I'm sure you know, last Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  In honor of this day, Saint Michel's (particularly the MLK Jr. Society) put together a host of events for students to attend throughout the week.  I attended the Convocation on Monday, with keynote speaker Kevin Powell as well as many other speakers from Saint Michael's and the surrounding area. Though it took a large junk of time out of my busy day, I'm so happy I went.

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Kevin Powell speaking in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel last Monday
For most of my life, I've thought of MLK Jr. Day as just another opportunity to miss a day of school. However, this year in particular, I viewed the day a bit differently. In light of many things, including the Convocation on Monday, my Race and Ethnic relations class last semester (arguably the most influential class I've taken at Saint Mike's), the many events that have raised our attention to the racial injustices in our society, coupled with my recent viewing of the movie Selma, I find that I have had a lot to think about throughout the past week.

First and foremost, as my Demography and Public Health Professor pointed out on the first day of class, I am lucky to be alive.  More than that, I am extremely fortunate to have been born into a family that has enabled me to earn a high school (and soon college) degree.  In two of my sociology classes, we have read an article by Peggy McIntosh about white privilege.  Each time I read it, I gained a greater appreciation for all that is granted to me in my everyday life.

I don't want this post to sound preachy, but I do want to take a moment to be grateful for my life, as well as acknowledge the fact that not everyone has the same privileges I do.  Another one of my professors last week urged my class to go see the movie Selma in order to gain a better appreciation for the struggles that African Americans went through in order to obtain the right to vote.  As I said to my roommates (who went to see the movie with me), I don't get angry very often, but during the movie, I was quite mad at what I was seeing.  As I write this post, I'm having a hard time articulating my thoughts into words.  But I think what I'm trying to say is that it is that people were, and still are, judged and looked down upon because of their race of ethnicity.  It is unacceptable.  And it's not just in the media.  Just this morning, my Psych of Health and Wellness class had a discussion about an article we read pertaining to the the fact that race and ethnicity both have an effect on interactions, treatment plans, as well as outcomes of those seeking medical help.  I understand that it might be easy to group people together and make assumptions based on their looks - some would even argue that grouping people is a natural human tendency.  However, just because people may have similar looks doesn't mean they're the same.  As one of my good friends and mentors says, we are all strategically different, and that's a good thing.

A few days ago, I was having a conversation about people from South America.  One of the people I was talking to was trying to make a distinction between two South American countries, while another spoke of the countries as though they were one entity.  Though I'm sure no harm or offense was intended, it struck a chord with me.  Last semester in my Human Geography class, Professor Kujawa brought to our attention the fact that so many people speak of the entire content of Africa as though it is one country, when in fact there are at least forty seven separate countries (depending on whether or not you count the islands).  People do the same thing with other people.  Not all non-whites are the same.  Not all Asians are the same.  Not all Europeans are the same.  And everyone deserves to know that they are valuable and important.

While the speeches I heard on Monday were important, inspiring, and heartbreaking all at the same time, I left the Convocation still unsure of exactly what I'm supposed to do about the current state of our country as a soon-to-be college college graduate.  The best I can think of so far is to continue the conversation, with my friends, parents, peers, and you.  I also feel want to point out that for many years it has been my gut reaction to tune out whenever people use the word "history."  Now, however, I am slowly coming to understand that maybe learning about history isn't so bad after all.  As my Practicum professor said last week, we cannot afford to pass up the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.  We cannot just sit back and assume that others will take care of our problems for us, whether they have to do with racism, inequality, or something as simple as procrastinating on homework.

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I have to admit that I had every intention of posting this on Friday as a conclusion to MLK Jr. week.  However, life got in the way, and here it is, already the end of the weekend and the start of another week.  After a moment of reprimanding myself for not posting this sooner, I realized that it's actually kind of perfect that I waited.  To me at least, it shows that conversation about these issues (and many more that I didn't discuss here) shouldn't be reserved to one week of the year.  The effects of people's actions have constant effects.  I hope that everyone continues to be inspired, in one way or another, to pay more attention to individual differences and to see the beauty in them.  We have a lot to learn from each other.

As always, thanks for reading, and have a great week!

PS I've been on a Script kick for the past song in particular because they're all great! :)

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