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Martin Luther King dinner

Michael Savage | Monday, January 24, 2011

Which race is best at math? Which race would you want on your basketball team? Finish this sentence: _______ men can’t jump. If you had to think about these responses you are probably in the minority. The bottom line is we all operate under certain assumptions that often don’t reflect the whole story. But a one-sided story is an incomplete story, which leads to false pretenses. On the other hand a one-sided story is safe because there is no opposing side to challenge our perceptions. Even still a complete story remains invaluable simply by presenting the opportunity to understand the differences and similarities between the opposing sides. A wise friend of mine and Notre Dame alumnus told me, “The more we express our misunderstandings of each other, the better we come to understand each other in time.”

That being said, this week was the 25th observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To many of us this simply meant another day to sleep in before the upcoming spring semester. Caught up in enjoying our last days of freedom, hurrying to buy books and last minute schedule changes have consumed our week. Yes, it is true that the University recognizes Dr. King as a model of non-violence and community service, but as a student body how is his message relevant?

This past Wednesday, a group of over 90 students and faculty members attempted to address this very question at the 18th Annual Martin Luther King Dinner. The theme of the dinner was Eyes Wide Shut. The dinner was comprised of student leaders representative of various classes and minority groups joined to celebrate and discuss the teachings of Dr. King not only as a remedy of the past, but as a catalyst for today. Topics were discussed such as immigration, socioeconomic inequality, stereotyping and unity. Many perspectives were, literally, brought to the table, but one common thread emerged: we must keep moving forward. Still, today people are marginalized and discriminated against for reasons out of their control. But why? If people across the board agree that stereotypes serve limit one’s scope and that racism is unacceptable in today’s society, why do we hold on to these parasitic qualities?

The only answer that makes sense to me is a lack of exposure to various cultures or different people in general. I hate to use the word ignorance, as young adults who in the future will possess the power to affect change; we must strive to understand the consequences for all people. As put by Dr. King, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” This quote resonates in discussions regarding many issues facing this campus whether they are race related or not.

I don’t expect to become fully inclusive anytime soon, but much progress can be made on the individual level. Both sides need improvement. On one hand marginalized students must be patient with their peers who may be unaware, and on the other, members of the community who may not have been exposed to diversity should seize the opportunity to learn. The bottom line is a little effort goes a long way.

That being said, Multicultural Student Programs and Services have coordinated a five-part series on the topic of race. Also, with February being Black History Month there will be a plethora of opportunities to not only learn from but to support your fellow peers.

Michael Savage is a sophomore. He can be reached at msavage2@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.