Today marks the Martin Luther King day.
On a national level, groups are organizing events to reflect on MLK’s contribution throughout his civil rights movement. But on a local community level, is there anything we can do to carry Dr. King’s legacy in our present times?
I’d say – yes.
True, the ugly traces of segregation that Dr. King had to deal with may have gone from our lives now, but we still see significant gaps between groups in our own towns and communities.
One of these challenges that we see in our small college town is the gap between residents and students. We often see both groups have been painted with broad brushes, which I think is not quite fair. Students, on one hand, are seen as noise-making, riot-causing folks who only bring shame to this town. On the other hand, residents are often seen as a group who are annoyance to this college town – they are against anything and everything that has to do with the university and the students.
Similar gaps also remain among different ethnic groups within the residents. Neighbors often point to the change in ethnic demographics as the reason for many issues in the neighborhood.
As I said many times, I think the only way to bridge these gaps is to bring the groups together. Styaing at a distance and pointing fingers to each other will only widen these gaps.
One way to address these widening gaps is to organize events where we can bring these groups in one place at one time. The College Park day that we helped organize last fall, I think, helped to address that to a certain extent.
Another way to close the gap could be to organize many joint projects together involving these various groups. This has been fairly successful involving students and residents. Both have organized quite a few projects in the past, but I think more can be and should be done.