VOICES: A better outcome for all through equality and peace

In recent weeks, thinking about how divided our country has become over issues that should unite us, brings to mind two quotes that have had a profound impact on me, one from my youth, and one from the last year or so. Both are incredibly powerful.

When I was in the 8th grade, struggling with an assignment to define what patriotism means, my father said to me, “Patriotism is loving this great country when it has not loved you back in hopes that your children and grandchildren will experience the full citizenship that white Americans have.”

Just last year, with the vantage point from another country, an international student said to me, “Americans are in love with symbols of patriotism and Christianity; the true principles of the two, not so much.”

It takes great resolve to not be shaken by book bans and burnings, efforts to eliminate truth telling in schools and the general defense of the indefensible.

Let’s be honest. The fear mongering over teaching hard truths about America’s past such as slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, the Tulsa Race Massacre, redlining, etc. is not about young white children feeling guilty, but instead, fearing that they will question adults about how these things happened in and continue to happen in the “land of the free, and home of the brave.” Knowledge equips children with the courage to avoid the pitfalls of the past and prevents history from repeating itself.

For the past two years, the Diversity Office at Sinclair Community College has organized more than 300 discussions, book reads, movie screenings, and presentations by national and local speakers. These events have engaged and inspired nearly 10,000 participants in positive, hopeful discussions about race and equity.

No one should walk away from a discussion about race feeling forced to believe in something. You can walk away and still not agree, but hopefully, you leave with a degree of empathy to the struggles and obstacles faced by people of color. Listening to one another is our best defense against ignorance and divisiveness.

We often hear people say that change is scary, but we do it every day. We change our clothes, we change the oil in our cars, we change a burned-out lightbulb, and the list goes on. We do all of these things, for the most part, to improve our lives. We want to look better. We want our cars to run smoothly, and we want to see through the darkness. We also change our minds every day in an effort to produce better outcomes for ourselves. But when it comes to racism and equity, why is change so hard? In reality, the result is the same…a better outcome for all.

That’s what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for: A better outcome for all through equality and peace. Do your beliefs support that? I urge you to join the conversation. It is the only way to effect real change in our efforts to become an equitable society.

Michael Carter is Senior Advisor to the President and Chief Diversity Officer for Sinclair Community College.

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