What Can We Do?

by Grant Batchelder

This weekend around the country, many people are celebrating the life and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a great man with a legacy continued by thousands of civil rights activists still working hard today for a better future for the next generation. As the day was coming up, I got a little agitated. Why is this day treated the same as other Monday holiday’s? People get the day off, or not in some cases, and spend it at home or out and about enjoying the day off. I don’t believe that this day should be so small. Especially in our country’s current political climate, we should be focusing on this day. We should be clinging to the message of Dr. King with all that we can.

On MLK Day, we, like many other places, did not have the day off. This makes sense for a college, as it is a day that high school students have off and can come to visit. Why though are we holding MLK breakfasts and having a parade on the weekend? Why aren’t there national marches on this day? Why, especially with what is going on in Ferguson, are we just sitting around talking about the great impact he had on society? If ever there was a time for us as a nation to stand up and tell our government and the world that we are tired of it, tired of inequality, injustice, the judicial system, and our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, and neighbors being killed because of the color of their skin; it is this day.

I am just as much to be blamed as everyone else. I sat at my desk on MLK Day just like most of you. However, next year will be different. I will not sit through another MLK Day. I am tired of being privileged over another person because I am white. I am tired of knowing that if I get pulled over it’s because I did something wrong but if my friend who is black gets pulled over it might be because he is black and not that he did anything wrong. Are you tired too?

I’m not done with just MLK Day too or with race alone. I see my privilege. I see it very clearly. I, as a white, heterosexual, male Christian, have had opportunities and privileges given to me at first sight. Did I work for what I have now? Yes, but I worked a lot less hard than a friend of mine from graduate school had to because he was not a white heterosexual. I’m not saying that graduate school was harder for him, but that life in general. Did he have privileges that I did not have? Yes, but that doesn’t make up for my privilege. I wonder how many of my students see this. How many of them understand what they have because of privilege?

A few weeks ago, another writer wrote about resolutions. Many years ago, I decided I would never do resolutions because they are not strong enough. They are weak willed and no one takes them seriously. I have made expectations instead, but not resolutions. Today, for this year, I am breaking that. A resolution can also be defined as the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter; the action of solving, not the solution. My one word resolution is Privilege. I resolve to be a true ally to all members of our society by examining my own privilege and by encouraging my students to think about theirs. I do a little of this already, but I can do so much more. Can you?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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