The Importance of Talking About Racism

After reading Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech and discussing it in class, there are two ideas presented in this speech that have been on my mind. First, Dr. King expressed that it is the social scientist’s responsibility to spread information to the misinformed whites of America. The second idea was a particular quote that Dr. King recited in his speech that really stood out to me. He quoted Victor Hugo saying, “If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.” Martin Luther King used this quote symbolizing whites in society as the cause of the “darkness” (prejudice attitudes/ behaviors and discrimination-both on a personal and institutional level).

I think the idea of taking the responsibility to educate others and open conversation about these issues is definitely an important aspect in changing peoples ideas on race and racism. But, I think the second idea/ quote raises an important factor as well. In order to really educate others on race issues, whites must accept responsibility for their role in society that keeps racism alive. I think realizing that racism is embedded into our systems and institutions, and that whites have privilege and benefit as a result from the inequality is essential in discussing racism.

Although there has been progress made since Martin Luther King Jr. gave this speech 44 years ago, racism is still a major issue in this country today. Opening conversation is a good start, but I guess the main question that keeps returning to my mind is: How can the damage done by years of discrimination embedded in our society’s systems be reversed?