Olivet College annually hosts the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholars Essay Contest. Students are invited to submit a 500-maximum-word essay under a theme relating to diversity, equity and inclusion and a value or quote from Martin Luther King Jr. This year, students were prompted with King’s quote, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” They were asked to consider the definitions of diversity, equity and inclusion and why these values be a shared responsibility on campus and beyond.
Junior Destinee Hawkins, psychology major and social work minor, received first place with her essay submission. Destinee is a member of the Hiram Archer Student Success Academy and the Global Citizen Honors Society, and she serves as a resident adviser. After graduation, she plans to attend a graduate program in counseling psychology.
“I have been learning about Dr. King for as long as I can remember and the man spoke wisdom,” Destinee said. “The basis of my essay was rooted in the history of my ethnicity. The issues that I talked about in my essay were issues that my grandparents and their parents and their families before them had to go through, and here I am reaping the benefits of their struggles as a Black student at a Predominately White Institution (PWI). I never want someone to have to go through the discrimination that they endured. So diversity, equity and inclusion are things that I strive for because it has been rooted in me to make a change for everyone, especially individuals who look like me.”
The destiny of America is one that no one can know, yet a lot can foresee. The history of America has been built on the backs of African (Americans) who had no control over the conditions that they endured. Although problems have de-escalated, they are not resolved. How can a country that killed, raped, beat, stole from, threatened and harmed the ancestors of its current citizens not believe that there should be some work done to the foundations upon which the country was built?
Everything in this country was and is White-based. Prejudice is soaked into the culture and the longer it sits, the longer it soaks. Why were Black people excluded from reading and writing and often murdered if they had these tools? Because education was only for White people. That alone shows that there was no fairness or justice for Black people. Were Black people not human beings? Besides White-only school systems, sport centers, country clubs and libraries, there were also White-only drinking fountains, diners and even sections of the bus. If you say that is inclusive or accommodating, then you are wrong. A legal doctrine for segregation, also known as “separate but equal,” was endorsed. What is equal about forcing a race of people to a form of life that is still racist?
This is why upholding diversity, equity and inclusion is everyone’s responsibility. For centuries, attempts that have been made toward the equality that Black people deserve have been shot down by some perfunctory attempt at throwing something at us and dressing it up as equality, but it still lacks the essence of equality. When numerous Black and brown men and women are losing their lives at the hands of White men and women instead of having their hands joined together as Dr. King wanted, then diversity, equity and inclusion are not being upheld. If an individual can choose the fate of another human being based on the color of their skin, then neither our God-given right nor constitutional rights are being upheld.
Dr. King also said, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” If diversity, equity and inclusion are not sought out by everyone, then it helps no one. How can you say that you want the best for minorities if 1) you never sat with them during their struggles, or 2) you are perpetuating a lifestyle that leaves them out? You do not have to go through exactly what someone else has gone through to empathize with their feelings. If you know that you would never want to be left out, feel unfairly treated or have your ideas overlooked, then you need to also seek out fairness for other people. A shoe can always end up on the other foot. People do not have to suffer for you to succeed. We all come from one creator and are given this life to make the best out of it. Why must your best out best mine? How can it? Is that the destiny of America?