Following the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events that the university took part in organizing and participating in, there has been response on campus encouraging discussion of issues that are important to members of the community. This year the commemorative lecture series brought Tim Wise, anti-racist educator and author, to campus to discuss King’s memory and his legacy.
“I really liked that [Wise] discussed racism in the past, but also in our lives today, and gave this clarity,” said senior Brenda Lira. “I felt he was passionate and brought awareness to the audience.”
The lecture by Wise, held Jan. 15 in Laurie Auditorium, as part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Lecture series, focused on remembering King for all of his beliefs instead of selecting those more moderate ones to respect, and spoke of the continued racial issues in the United States.
Wise…….referenced several groups that were marginalized in the United States, primarily African Americans and other racial minorities, but also the sexually and religiously marginalized, and spoke of their continued struggle for equality and respect.
“People talk as if [marriage equality] is the end-all-be-all issue for LGBT people,” said first year Curtis Whitacre. “People are still being killed, people are still scared to come out, and the structure of the world still works against LGBT people. That’s important, and we need to talk about it.”
Following the lecture by Wise, coordinator of diversity and intercultural relations, Soisouda Smith, noticed students showing in interest in starting conversations on campus about the issues that concern them and what they can do to help raise awareness and resolve them both on and off campus. She noted that these conversations happen frequently during individual classes, but are less frequent outside of the classroom.
“It’s important to realize that violence is not just about physical abuse and punishment,” said chair of sociology and anthropology David Spener. “It has to do with structure.”
Spener reflected on the need for students to discuss their concerns and issues with others and work together to bring about awareness and changes on campus. He explained that he has taught about social issues relating to race, class and sexuality in his courses, but that these issues need to be discussed outside of the classroom on a wider scale in order to make an impact.
“There are opportunities [off campus] to engage in the community, and there are opportunities to get involved, but you have to make the step to find them,” Spener said.
Both Spener and Smith noted that the smaller size of this university does not lend itself to massive social change, but encouraged communication about these issues. Spener in particular recommended involvement with the Trinity Diversity Connection and other student groups such as the Sexual Diversity Alliance and Black Student Association.
“It’s like, ‘We support you,’ but there are still issues. There are still problems and we can’t ignore it,” Lira said.