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.
Senior Antoney Hall, a journalism and mass communication major and music minor, received second place with his essay submission. He is a member of the Black Student Union, the Gospel Choir, and the Residence Life and Student Engagement staff. Antoney hopes his essay will serve as an inspiration for positive change.
“All men are created equal.” “Everyone is worthy of respect.” “Treat people with kindness.” These are a few quotes I live by every day. This world can be dark and unforgiving, and you never know what someone may be going through. You never know what kinds of battles people are struggling with. With that being said, it’s common sense to treat everyone right, right? Unfortunately, no one is immune to society’s mistreatment. No one is free from homophobic, racist, or sexist remarks. These go entirely against what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in. These go against what I personally agree with. Why doesn’t everyone treat others with kindness? I’m not exactly sure. Luckily, for most of my life I’ve been blessed with many people who accept me as I am. An aspect of this world that makes my life better is people. I love socializing with people. I’m always around them. Fast forward to now: I’m a Resident Advisor. Meeting people is the basis of the job, among many other things. As I’m walking the halls where my residents live, laugh, and co-exist, I notice diversity. People of different aesthetics, backgrounds, majors, etc. all exist here simultaneously.
When I’m around my residents, I’m sure to greet them, invite them in, and welcome them. I never take into account how they look, how they identify, or anything else of that nature. As I grow older, I notice that not everyone thinks and acts like me. They discriminate against people and exclude others not like them. They withhold and gatekeep the symbols that keep others away. Any of us could go into detail about what groups and organizations do that, but I refuse to invest my energy into that. I made a personal vow to always treat people with respect, inclusion, and equity. I ask the audience to do so as well.
A wise person by the name of RuPaul once said, “If you don’t love yourself, how are you gonna love somebody else?” I feel that respect needs to run deep within yourself. If you don’t love yourself, how can you love others? That probably wasn’t exactly what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught, but it fits so well with treating other people how they should be treated. Treat others as you would treat yourself. Education is imperative to self-growth. I suggest you start with asking yourself questions. Why don’t you accept yourself? Is it because of how you have been treated in certain scenarios? No, it’s not “vain” or “selfish,” it’s self-work to simply try to see how you can be better for others through accepting yourself. Once that happens, the rest will follow. Get rid of the biases and ignorance and see how many beautiful people will arrive in your life.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” We can accomplish this through inclusion, equity, and diversity. Everyone deserves a seat at the table. Remove those unconscious biases. Ask people about their experiences. Hang around people you usually wouldn’t, and then ask yourself, “Why?” Listen to what others say and watch what others do. Grow from that. Understand that not everything is for you to understand, but that total understanding isn’t a requirement to treat someone like a human being. Treat everyone with love, respect, and inclusion. It’s the human thing to do.