Baylor is fortunate to host many great members of the local and global community as speakers. On Monday, Jan. 14, anti-racist writer and speaker Tim Wise, who reaches audiences all across the nation, spoke in chapel to prepare faculty and students for the remembrance and honoring of Martin Luther King Jr.
Wise spoke about the meaning of MLK Day and addressed the issues with our nation's perception of the holiday, explaining that "as a nation we've sort of sanitized what the day is about." He spoke about the false history of Dr. King that is taught in school systems, stating that when he asks younger kids about Dr. King, he gets a response such as, "If Dr. King were here today he would tell us not to join a gang or to shoot a gun or to fight." Although these are generally true statements about the beliefs that Dr. King held, Wise claims that "we forget about the radical Dr. King," who believed that racism, poverty, and materialism are the triple evils and did many things and held many beliefs that are somewhat disregarded in today's teachings of his story. "We can't erase that part of him that isn't convenient for us. We cannot erase that part of Dr. King," he said, and added numerous times that "you don't have to agree with him, but you can't act like he didn't say it."
Many of the issues which Dr. King fought for continue to present themselves as obstacles in our society today. Wise asserted that we have not yet purged ourselves of the triple evils. For example, immigration is a topic that remains an important aspect of current politics, and Wise reminded us of the way that many immigrated to America. "We didn't come for freedom. If we had come for freedom we wouldn't have needed Dr. King to fight for freedom," he said. Explaining that historically people came to the U.S. for the same reason that people leave their countries today, which is because they are desperate. As Wise explained, people do not leave because they're winning, they leave because they're losing. He also spoke about other relevant subjects including the Black Lives Matter movement, Black History Month, and the American voting system, and his ability to reflect Dr. King's mindset presented the Baylor community with a different perspective. His speech left a lasting impression on those who heard it, and discussions about the talk filled classrooms and social spaces for the remainder of the day. Students were also given the opportunity to hear from Wise again later in the day and to have discussions with him.
The following week, Baylor students continued learning about Dr. King and doing service for the community in his honor. Through MLK day, the image of Dr. King that Wise reminded us of, ran through our minds as we worked to better the lives of those living in a nation who may have never experienced liberty and justice for all.