Every January toward the middle of the month, we set aside a single Monday where students don’t have to slip on their snow boots, pull hats over their heads, and venture into the wintry city for class. This particular Monday I speak of (which happens to be this coming Monday, the 18th) is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the day off offers us a moment to reflect on the man this day is recognized for.
In 1963, Dr. King made his “I Have a Dream” speech to a group of marchers in Washington, highlighting the various injustices faced by people of color. At the time of his speech, Dr. King highlighted the harsh realities of racism in the U.S. as well as the long road society would need to venture down to overcome these realities. However, in highlighting these harsh realities, Dr. King offered a hopeful perspective. He offered his dream. In a poetic way, Dr. King said that one day, he believed that through love, understanding, and action, we could “rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.” Dr. King saw hope in the United States and encouraged people to embrace this hope.
Today, in 2016, as we remember Dr. King and his famous speech, we see that this nation still has a lot of work to do. Racism and prejudice are still present within U.S. society. Oftentimes, it might be tempting to believe that if we don’t talk about these issues and ignore their existence, they will dissipate. They will scatter into the wind, and freedom and equality will simply…happen. Dr. King, I think, would tell us to do the exact opposite. I would like to think that he would remind us that the issues we face today in our society do not have easy solutions and they require brainpower, creativity, compassion, and discussion.
At DePaul, these discussions are often encouraged, and, though I’m a bit biased, I think the mission of the Collaborative for Multilingual Writing and Research embraces this kind of discussion. The purpose of the CMWR is to bring people together from different backgrounds, experiences, religions, and cultures and engage in conversation.
Now, this is not to say we have discussions on racial inequality every Friday during Conversation and Culture. However, we do encourage different opinions and viewpoints during our events so that we may learn and understand from each other in a space that embraces unique and diverse perspectives. These conversations invite opportunities to see a hint of the lessons offered in Dr. King’s speech.
These discussions may not encompass the same poetic aspects that Dr. King’s language encompasses, but they eventually end up sparking his main message. These discussions encourage and even challenge our ability to understand and respect each other—and for me, that makes this coming Monday a day of reflection and reality. It’s a day that reminds me that even small discussions and actions embrace something that we typically see as so much larger than us.
Ideas like equality and justice can sometimes seem abstract and distant, and, in a way, they are. At the same time, we can’t forget that those simple actions we don’t normally see as significant, like learning about someone else’s culture, can embrace the same message that Dr. King posed in 1963. In his speech, Dr. King said, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” In seeking freedom, in other words, we must obtain it not through fear and hatred, but through understanding and love. I guess what I am trying to say is that we have so much to learn about each other, and the attempt to do so can ultimately go a long way.