The beginning of second semester is a busy time for the Furman community. An undeniably large portion of our student population disappears for a few days, their existence only evidenced through Facebook pictures of them in elegant dresses, tutus, and leather jackets. When they emerge on Bid Day, the day is always celebrated like a holiday. Except this year many people were so busy celebrating their new letters that they forgot it actually was.
It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Professors reminisce about the days when MLK Day was a time when the Furman community came together and participated in various community service activities. It was not simply a celebration of past progress, but a continuation of that progress in the Furman community today, a continuation that we cannot afford to lose.
Considering that Furman is currently struggling not only with a lack of diversity but also a lack of respect for diversity, a matter which students and faculty alike critique regularly, it was not a strategic move for the university to place Bid Day on this national holiday, a holiday of remembrance that is so significant to the United States’ race relation history, especially as Furman celebrates its 50 years of desegregation.
There are significant racial tensions on campus as well as around the globe: Our campus saw a KKK-reminiscent cross-burning near the Swamp Rabbit Trail, racial posts on Yik Yak, and students’ protests to support/protect multicultural faculty while tension over Michael Brown and Eric Garner rocked our nation. Meanwhile, the administration seemed to ignore the significance of a holiday celebrating the fight for racial equality. At this point, we believe that this is not simply an issue about administrative, strategic scheduling. We believe that it is a question of ethics and morality.
As disconcerting as it is, this type of incident is not new to Furman. Even last semester students expressed frustration of Fall for Furman being placed on Yom Kippur and Eid Mubarak, prominent Jewish and Muslim holidays. No other religious holidays were slighted. Christmas and Easter continued without administrative altercation. In the same way, Martin Luther King Day was ignored while Presidents’ Day was honored. What makes these Christian and national holidays more important than a holiday devoted to honoring a civil rights leader who not only changed the lives of Black people, but also corrected an entire nation’s pathway towards equality and justice for all?
Perhaps these events are not malicious. Perhaps they are simply a slight. If so, however, we believe it is a slight that should not be repeated again. We do not want this to become another conversation about diversity that is swept under the rug. We do not want Furman to be faced with even the idea of considering some cultures as being more relevant than others. We, like Martin Luther King, have a dream. Help us make it come true.