U.S. still has much to learn from celebrating MLK

This year, Carnegie Mellon students enjoyed a three-day weekend for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for the first time in recent years.

In August, President Suresh emailed students to inform them of the change, saying: “I have decided to declare MLK Day a university holiday. This will allow us to honor Dr. King, while extending and enriching the excellent service and community engagement programs that reflect our commitment to Dr. King’s dream throughout the month of January.” The holiday included a wide variety of diversity based programming, and The Tartan was excited by many of the events that were offered, especially the Colors@CMU celebration.

The campus participation was heartening, and indicates that on CMU’s campus, many students are accepting of differences and able to have a healthy, open dialogue regarding these issues. The administration’s decision to make this “day off” mean something strengthens this campus’s commitment to diversity and is an indicator of the strides that society is making.

However, it is important to remember that this attitude is not indicative of society as a whole. In the Pittsburgh community, reactions to celebrations and protests were less than warm.

For example, when protests blocked streets in Oakland last Monday, students took to the popular anonymous social media app Yik Yak to express their frustrations, linking the inconvenience of the protests to their apparent lack of interest in civil rights issues. Many postings were, intentionally or not, offensive and upsetting, highlighting the ignorance, hate, and casual racism still present in our community.

As members of an influential college community, we need to continue promoting the acceptance of diversity and the celebration of civil rights.

Our attitudes can influence the attitudes of others, and we can catalyze real change in the greater Pittsburgh community. Remembering heroes who fought for equality and participating in carefully designed programming are strong first steps, but we must remember to keep our convictions throughout the year as well.