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Race relations imperfect, improving

Feb. 8, 2001

This month we celebrate our country's heritage. While it is Black History Month, we really ought to take this opportunity to celebrate the diversity of our country, and of our school.

'Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven -- ring with the harmonies of liberty.'

That first line of the Negro National Anthem, most often sung during February, sounds very much like a call to arms for American society year-round. 'Lift every voice.' The phrase is inclusive. It says to blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians and all other races that make up America's beautiful mosaic of culture, that we ought to celebrate together our diversity. We ought to realize the unique opportunity we have as a country of immigrants to immerse ourselves in cultures unlike our own.

Further, we ought to celebrate the relatively new and still developing opportunity we have to live together freely and equally. The anthem continues 'let our rejoicing rise.'

When was the last time you rejoiced at being able to live together with different races freely? Too often we look at racial diversity as a challenge that our society has to deal with. How much more inclusive would our university be if we looked at racial diversity as an opportunity and not a challenge? So, don't only recognize and appreciate our diversity, rejoice at it.

'Sing a song full of the faith that our dark past has taught us.'

The path toward racial equality has been rocky and arduous. Indeed, America has a dark past. However, too often, blacks and others look upon our past with despair and respond with anger.

There is a reason to remember and study America's dark past of slavery and inequality. That reason is not to create division among the races. Remembering our dark past ought to give us faith that if we can make it through slavery and the Jim Crow era, certainly we can get past our petty differences today.

'Sing a song, full of the hope that the present has brought us.'

While the present state of race relations in our country is not perfect, the extent to which we have continually progressed over time ought to give us hope. We are certainly farther along than our parents, even our older siblings.

'Facing the rising sun of our new day begun ...'

Following the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin said the half sun on George Washington's chair was a rising sun, instead of a setting sun, representing the growth of the newly created union. Likewise, we are facing a new day in race relations in our country.

Once we as a nation recognize the value of diversity in our country, it will be like seeing the light of that rising sun.

So, 'Let us march on 'till victory is won.'