January 17, 2013

Act for Change

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Greetings Cornell! I hope you’re feeling as relaxed as I am after such a much-needed break. Luckily for you, the exquisite editors down on 139 W. State St. awarded me with a Friday 800-word soapbox for this semester. And boy am I thrilled to be the Op-Ed that kicks off your weekend the right way. I think my friends and family will be most thrilled, seeing how I can now direct my rants towards you all and give their unwilling ears some reprieve. While I was gunning for a spot next to the lovely ladies of Sex on Thursdays, it’s an honor to have my column above the sexually charged, 18+, XXX column, “Barely Legal,” where I expect to read some kinky-Mona G-style group-sex escapades, but only find rather poignant observations made by talented Law students which are likely going to both more stimulating and definitely more mature than the words I plan to present you. Fortunately, my first column lands on a day where I need not phish for column topics in the deep recesses of my messed-up mind. This Monday is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, a federal holiday with government offices and most Universities closed to remember and honor the greatest civil rights leader of our nation’s history, and rightfully so. Surprisingly, if we look to our shining alma mater’s academic calendar, we would find the first day of spring semester classes to land on the very same day. We will be the only Ivy League institution and perhaps the only university in the country to hold classes on Monday, a shameful travesty indeed, and it’s almost as crazy as not getting off on Labor Day, when we have an entire school devoted to our love for labor (Read: ILR. See: Cornell’s pre-2010 calendars) Now granted, I admit I’m rather unaware of the inner workings behind the decisions of our great schedule makers acting behind Oz’s green curtain with committees and advisors and advisory committees, but holding classes on this day is just wrong. I know we students could never understand the time and complex understanding needed to make a university such as ours function smoothly, but class on MLK day is inexcusable and should never have been an option. Ever. On a day we should be honoring the man behind the ultimate civil rights movement of our nation’s modern history, Cornellians will be receiving their syllabi and preparing their minds for the spirited semester ahead. On a day where Cornell could address the growing social and racial inequality that still exists in New York state and the other 49 states of the union, we instead will implicitly support the current status quo of implicit racism built into our economic and judicial system. On a day where Cornell can utilize its relationship with the Auburn prison, raise social awareness and express its commitment to the work of Dr. King and others, instead, we will continue unmoved. I again confess, Cornell is cohosting events on campus and across Ithaca on Monday, but does anyone believe these important, yet certainly minor events will be attended by large numbers of students? Likely not. How many students will walk down to the elementary school on Buffalo Street to celebrate Dr. King? If Cornell hosted a unified group of events on campus on a day without classes, we could bridge the gap between us living in the bubble on the hill and those existing in the real world with real problems across Ithaca and Tompkins County. Do you believe MLK would be satisfied with the current racial situation in America? Would he consider his work done? No more nonviolent resistance, no more marches, no more acts of solidarity. I doubt that. Dr. King’s work is by no means over. A racial under-caste still exists in America that takes shape in our racist-enabling judicial, economic and political systems. Minorities are swept into America’s massive prison system and face legalized discrimination in hiring and housing upon release. The hegemony of upper middle class whites over poor minorities is alive and well, a simple extension of Jim Crow laws and the explicit segregation of the 50’s and 60’s. From the gross racism and dehumanization of slavery, to the explicit racism of racial segregation, to the implicit racism embedded in our justice system, we are far from finished with our fight for racial equality. I would like to think most students here would agree with that.Not only can MLK day be utilized to foster reflection and analysis of the current inequalities existing in everyday American society, including our own campus, the day falls on the official start of President Obama’s second term. We can bridge past and present, give the icon of modern progressivism the federal holiday he deserves and look ahead towards the prospects of our current black president continuing Dr. King’s work.Dr. King wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Today, his words are more relevant than ever. With an information-rich society where anyone with an Internet connection can find out facts typically unheard, the tension between our sheltered lives and the threatened lives of poor minorities is only growing. Instead, let’s hope less for change.We don’t need hope. It is time to act. Act for change.

Rudy Gerson is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached a rgerson@cornellsun.com. Rooting Around column runs alternate Fridays this semester.

Original Author: Rudy Gerson