King’s dream embodied by UH community

Dr. King's dream of diversity, that "we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together" continues to live on in the University of Houston | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of diversity, that “we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together,” continues to live on at the University of Houston. | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The dream of Martin Luther King Jr. is an ever-increasing reality at the University of Houston.

During the weeks surrounding the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Americans reflect upon his work and contributions to the civil rights movement across the country. Although America is a polarized nation, one where individual liberties are now granted to all citizens, injustices still exist.

In an interview, former Secretary of State and Gen. Colin Powell said, “It’s easy to say that, ‘Well, we’ve still got a lot of problems.’ And we do, we do … but we should not overlook how far we have come since 1963.”

With that, Powell goes on to imagine how King would view the progress that has been made thus far, adding, “If Dr. King was here, I’m quite sure he would say, ‘Congratulations on all the progress that’s been made, but let’s keep going; the dream is not fully achieved yet.’ ”

Early abolitionist and social reformist Fredrick Douglass once said, “Education is the key to freedom,” and this ideal later proved to be a key stance in the fight for civil rights.

With the integration of public schools came a large push to bring African-Americans and other minorities out from under oppression. The major goal of integration was to provide individuals of all races and ethnicities equal access to education, guaranteeing them the opportunity for future success and the ability to contribute to society.

However, even in the 21st century, inequalities exist that make it more difficult for minorities — especially African-Americans and Hispanics — to gain access to a top-tier education.

A Georgetown University study found that “the 468 top-tier universities in the country are largely white and Asian. The 3,250 two-year, four-year lower-tier schools are black and Latino.”

The University of Houston is an outlier in regards to this study. The UH Board of Regents, administration and faculty are working to provide all citizens — regardless of race, ethnicity or gender — equal access to a top-tier education.

According to the Fall 2013 enrollment statistics published by UH, just less than 50 percent of the student body is white or Asian, while African-American, Hispanic and multiracial students account for just less than 40 percent of the population. The remaining 10 percent is made up of Native American, Pacific Islander and international students.

These numbers prove that the student population is not distributed relative to the data acquired by the Georgetown University study. The initiatives put in place by the University closely represent the goals of civil rights leaders more than 50 years ago to make quality education available to all.

In the heart of one of the most diverse cities in the United States, UH is working to bridge the gap of the injustices that still separate the nation.

According to the goals set by the UH Board of Regents, Strategic Principle 3 states, “The diversity of the UH System universities is a strength that distinguishes us among universities nationwide. Increasingly, the faculty, staff, administration and students of our universities will reflect the city of Houston’s diversity.”

From the UH Board of Regents to the faculty and student body, a diverse population is represented and acts as a strength to collectively enlighten thousands of students’ perceptions of other races, ethnicities and cultures.

When taking a walk across campus past the Cullen Family Plaza or the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library, you will notice a great representation of culture, pride and opportunity available within the student body. There are many opportunities provided to students, including cultural studies, quality faculty and hundreds of organizations. Students have the freedom to let their individuality show. They can express themselves freely and equally represent the University in a manner that contributes to the forward growth of this country.

The works of King — and all of the others who have contributed to the fight for civil rights — should not stop by any means. Their contributions, as well as those of the people of UH, would be in vain if students did not continue to take what they have learned into the workplace and world after graduation.

The challenge now is for students to take the experiences, values and education that they have earned at the University into the community where the possibilities are endless.

As King’s history and legacy resonate in the hearts and minds of Americans, reflect on the words of Gen. Powell.

“This is a problem that affects all of America, not just black America,” he said. “It’s something that is still a residual effect of our history, of the racism that existed by law, the segregation, slavery — and I think we’re slowly, surely moving away from this. And it’s going to change. It’s going to require more change in the hearts and minds of people. But we’re going to get there, I have no doubt about that.”

Opinion columnist Joshua DeYoung is an economics senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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