Celebrating diversity


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks in Montgomery, Ala. in 1965. Photo courtesy of parade.com

2016 marks the 86th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. He gave his life fighting for the civil rights movement when he was fatally shot in the head at the age of 39. Every third monday of January we honor the selfless work King did end segregation.

It has been over 40 years since King drew his last breath and racial tensions are on the rise again. Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and Jamar Clark are only a few who have all lost their lives to police brutality last year. As more people have been video recording the few bad cops involved in these murders, police chiefs have responded by bringing the bad cops to trial.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has added to racial tensions by using anti-islamic and anti-latino rhetoric in his rallies and debates. I think people who share his similar viewpoints have felt more empowered to act because they watch him and it justifies their hatred of other cultures.

A great example of the hatred towards Muslims can be found in Grand Forks, when the Juba Coffeehouse was burned down days after a Nazi symbol was spray-painted on the restaurant. Many community members believe the motivation of the crime was islamophobic in nature.

At an art fundraiser for the owners of Juba Coffeehouse, Adam Kemp, a British immigrant artist living in Grand Forks spoke about cultural diversity acceptance.

If you’ve come here expecting cultural sensitivity then you’re in for a shock. I always find it funny that as an immigrant, people say go home.”

Kemp went on to say, “This is my home. There are few immigrants who think the United States isn’t their home. If you let hate determine the discussion, then you’ve given more power to hatred and fear than you probably should.”

Spirit Star, a community leader in mindfulness believes good things will come out of Juba being arsoned.

“What happened at Juba was for a purpose, because out of that purpose brought awareness of love and compassion. It begins with us. Once you understand the issues, the atrocities don’t happen. Now you come together to celebrate life instead of the destruction of life.” Star said.

Samantha Chairez is an officer for the Organization of Latino Americans.  On the topic of discrimination, Chairez said “not all minorities struggle with discrimination on a day to day basis, but yes in most of our lives we have experienced it, we have witnessed it, some more than others. We all know it happens.”

Chairez says her most positive diversity acceptance moments on campus occur whenever she attends cultural events. Chairez said “I really enjoy going to culture nights every time they have any at the union. I try to make it to all of them every semester. It is a good way to get to know another country’s culture and to learn differences and similarities to our own culture. It is also a good way to clear out any prior stereotypes that we may have thought to be true.”

Chairez think a good way to strengthen multicultural inclusiveness at UND would be to have more cultural events on campus. She thinks better advertisement of the culture nights would  improve attendance.

“With an easier way to notice it, a lot more students might attend.” She said. Chairez is optimistic about the future though now that the media and social networking sites have brought racial issues in the spotlight.

Dr. King’s dream included a nation accepting of all races, cultures and religions. What better way to honor his life than be the change he wanted to see in the world. UND can be a shining example of cultural acceptance if we all come together and celebrate our multicultural university.

Nick Sallen is the opinion editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]