A civil-rights leader congratulated Wittenberg students and community members on how far society has come in its fight against racism on Martin Luther King Day, but highlighted how far America still has to go to become a “beloved community.”
“This day we don’t just remember Dr. King. We rededicated ourselves to his vision of a beloved community,” featured-speaker Maya Wiley said. “I think it is really important for us as a country to be able to look back to look forward.”
Wiley spoke about Dr. King’s vision of a “beloved community” where there is not just desegregation, but also integration among different types of people.
“It’s a journey. Yes we’ve made steps, we’ve made some strides. If this is like a track meet, we are at 200 meters now. We are about halfway there,” Wittenberg sophomore Dashawn Glover said.
He said this day means a lot to him and reminds him that “dreams can and will come true as long as you pursue them.”
Glover said he saw a lot more racism in his hometown of Toledo than he does at school at Wittenberg.
“There is always a lot of tension between different groups (in Toledo),” he said. “Martin Luther King wasn’t just talking about desegregation, but more-so people getting to know each other and becoming a universal family.”
“It’s not just about black people. It’s not just about Hispanics. It’s about everyone uniting as one” Wittenberg senior Whitney Yarbrough said.
Glover said he wished more people understood we all are the same biologically.
The Rev. Linda Sue Stampley of Springfield came to the convocation with some of her friends. She said the speaker hit on the major topics she thought were important. She agreed with the speaker that America electing a black president showed progress, but said “we still have racism in Springfield.”
She said the hate goes beyond the color of people’s skin and said she sees discrimination against the LGBT community and other minorities as well.
Wiley talked about implicit and explicit racism that still exists today in her speech. Explicit racism has surprisingly increased since the election of President Obama, Wiley said. She said she is not as worried about that number as much as she is about implicit racism, subconscious thoughts that affect our attitudes and actions toward people of color.
“We can solve any problem, but we cannot solve any secret,” Wiley said.
Wiley is the founder and president of the Center for Social Inclusion and was the keynote speaker at Wittenberg’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. event. Wiley’s center is based out of New York and works to identify racial inequalities and work for policy change. She is a civil-rights attorney and also works with racial justice programs in the U.S. and South Africa.
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