By Israel Rojas-Moreno, Class of 2016
We can imagine Dr. King smiling triumphantly, witnessing black students freely engaging with white students in our hallways and classrooms. Dr. King’s, “I Have a Dream,” speech in 1963 and the following Civil Rights Act of 1964 abolished legal segregation from America, making our experience possible. And yet, more than 50 years later, the legacy of segregation lives on. While Chicago isn’t Alabama, it is the most segregated city in America.
Desegregation was just one element of Dr. King’s dream. Dr. King’s primary goal was to have black Americans fully integrated into the promise of America. Unfortunately, the grievances he cited then – racial discrimination, police brutality, or economic inequality – continue to this day. Unfortunately, the victims of “creative suffering” extend beyond the African-American communities; they are the Muslim-Americans attacked for their faith, the Hispanic-Americans exploited for their labor, the LGBT community demonized for their lifestyle, among others.
That same collection of demographic groups can be found at Booth preparing to launch their careers. Still, when we think of the strength of our diversity, our racial and ethnic backgrounds typically take a back seat to our educational and professional experiences as a source of value (professors request career perspectives all the time, but when was the last time you heard a request for a racial/ethnic perspective?). In my time at Booth though, some of my most profound learnings have come from conversations with peers of different cultural backgrounds than my own.
It used to baffle me, that two leading presidential candidates of intolerance could have such prestigious educational backgrounds. What exactly did Ted Cruz learn at Princeton/Harvard, or Donald Trump at Wharton? Many statements from either candidate appear more consistent with Dr. King’s world of 1963 than the world of today. Clearly, higher education alone does not instill cultural understanding. My own Booth experience confirms why. Our classes rarely discuss matters of economic inequality, let alone racial inequality. Civic engagement is hardly a required experience for the jobs we seek. Our networking seldom involves social justice. In short, our interests do not intersect. So, where does this leave us?
It is difficult to imagine that we will be protesting anything anytime soon. We haven’t lacked for opportunity (see: Laquan McDonald). But, there is something we can do. Let’s start by taking advantage of the full spectrum of our diversity. Let’s delve deep. We are willing to spend thousands of dollars to see the world, failing to realize that the world has come to us in the form of one another. Are we willing to spend the time to know each other?
Doing this independently is tough enough. So, in the coming weeks, ChiBus will introduce a new series: This Booth Life. We will organize forums to bring together a diverse panel of classmates to share their different experiences in an open and honest manner, allowing for audience Q&A. Stay tuned for details.
Israel is a big fan of Dr. King, Ira Glass, and asking too many questions.