Justin Flores, Martin Luther King Jr Speech

Alysia Kane, Editor in Chief

“Putting together this assembly almost seems routine. In planning an assembly like this, it’s easy to go through the motions. It’s easy to say the same thing as last year and talk about race with the same enthusiasm of a trip to the dentist. But in the past year we here in America have confronted and had to deal with race so much that a fair comparison can be made between 2016 and 1963. One would imagine, I’m sure Dr. King did too, that such would not be the case by this point in time. I’m sure part of his famous dream was that racial tension in America would be a history lesson, not a current event. That we would read about it in our textbooks, not watch it live on TV. It’s a sad fact that in over 50 years we as a culture have been unsuccessful in fulfilling Dr. King’s dream. The people of color in this nation are still growing up in a world where the cards are stacked against them. The more we pretend that it’s not a problem anymore and the less we want to talk about race, the progress that has been made will come to a grinding stop, and our colored brothers and sisters will continue to be failed by the system.

Part of the reason why such inequalities still exist is quite obviously, racism. That’s a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, and I’d like to explain why racism is still such a powerful force. Lots of us associate the word with stereotypes or using racial slurs. Racism is more than “the hatred or intolerance of another race or races.” Racism is a mix of is prejudice and power that contributes to a system where some races are able succeed while others are limited in resources and opportunities. When entire groups are marginalized through schools, job opportunities, or the justice system, we are talking about Institutional racism. Prejudice of any kind is bad, but it’s important to know the difference between individual prejudices and deep-rooted, institutionalized oppression that prevents a community from being treated as equal.

In the past people have proposed that a solution to racism might be simply pretending “not to see” race. But if you can see a person, you can see their race, and pretending to be “color blind” does not fix all the wrongdoings in our nation’s history nor does it put an end to everything that is happening today. We shouldn’t have to ignore each other’s differences just because we can’t deal with them. RACE is not the problem. Treating people differently BECAUSE of their race and acting on deep-rooted prejudices IS the problem.

But fighting that racism is a challenge. Since all of us have grown up in a world filled with it, no one is entirely free of racism. Even if we don’t go out and commit hate crimes, the little judgements and assumptions that we make about people because of their race on a day to day basis are the result of hundred and hundreds of years of oppression and propaganda that have influenced our judgement. That’s what makes fixing racism so hard, you have to make a conscious decision to unlearn all the small prejudices that you learned growing up.  But I have faith in this generation’s ability to go forward battling stigma, prejudice, and injustice. That’s not going to happen overnight. Fixing an issue that has been going on for hundreds of years is going to take time, don’t let the fear of “not learning fast enough” keep you from trying. And if you do say the wrong thing or unintentionally offend someone, apologize. You may not have meant harm, but intent is different from impact. That is how we’re going to fix racism. By putting our best foot forward and keeping the conversation alive. By being honest with ourselves and owning up to our mistakes, we will be able to bring harmony among all races and peoples in this country. And the sooner we make that happen, the sooner we can stop having this assembly. Thank you for your time.”