Amid the events available on campus during the week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, MCCC
President Kojo Quartey gave a speech regarding civil rights and the progress society has made since the civil rights movement.
Held on Jan. 21, the speech was originally meant to be performed by Manuel Mendez, an impressionist, who would reenact Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
“As fortunate as you all are, you have me!” Quartey said.
Although Quartey didn’t attempt the impressions, he did deliver his own speech regarding the civil rights movement and the progress it has made.
Quartey said the progress society has made on civil rights is subjective based on who is asked.
He referenced a survey that discovered while five out of 10 white Americans believed all civil rights equality was reached, only one out of 10 African Americans believed the same.
“When there are issues that don’t really affect you, you’re really not as concerned,” Quartey said of the survey results.
Those who do not believe they have been treated unfairly are less likely to see inequality than those who have, Quartey said, breaking this down to experience.
Furthermore, he said you cannot fully experience the life of another simply by walking a mile in their shoes. Living vicariously is not enough.
Quartey also took note of many of the challenges we face that transcend race and asked the audience to list a few off. These issues include poverty, health care coverage, human trafficking and mass shooting, all of which go beyond the barriers of race.
Special note was made of the #MeToo movement and the LGBTQ community, and their influence on civil rights issues detached from race, issues that were not as focused on years ago.
Quartey emphasized that no matter who they are, people should feel that they belong, especially on campus.
People should not be minimized to invalidate their feelings and experiences.
However, he acknowledged that race is still a factor in prejudices faced by Americans.
Quartey recalled a time when he had been pulled over for a broken tail light on his way home to repair it.
He mentioned the care he took in keeping his hands visible and explaining his motions to the officer.
He felt he had to take those precautions because of the perception of race associated with law enforcement.
One commenter mentioned how this effect may spread to those on the autism spectrum, whom officers may falsely perceive to be uncooperative or under the influence of drugs.
“We’ve come a long way but not far enough,” he said.
Quartey said for progress to be made, as it was in the past, good people from all walks of life must stand up and acknowledge what is wrong to achieve civil rights.
If they had not joined forces, the end of slavery, civil rights and women’s suffrage may not have been achieved.
“To move forward we all have to come together and we have to say what’s happening here is wrong,” he said.