Appropriate Unity

Although Martin Luther King Jr. Day keynote speaker Lani Guinier presented novel ideas regarding issues of race and activism, her argument failed in embodying the values preached by Dr. King. By creating distinctions between men and women as leaders, she greatly diminished the scope of King’s message of universal equality. While King’s message deals mostly with racial understanding, it nevertheless extends into all acts of human existence, including gender. While more female leadership should be promoted, it should not be at the expense of advocating women over men. Professor Guinier’s message simply did not succeed in capturing the most basic aspect of Doctor King’s message: universal equality. By concluding her speech with a call for women to free themselves from the constraints of men and take leadership positions, she left the audience in a feeling of division, rather than appropriate unity. Martin Luther King Jr. sought to address inequity through messages of wholeness. He said that in order for there to be racial unity, each race needed to see the other as an equal. To attain a colorblind society, Dr. King looked to change its view of the black race, not to elevate blacks as superior to their white counterparts. Instead of exposing the skewed view of women leadership in the workplace, Guinier portrayed women as better suited for leadership positions purely based on their sex. By using broad generalizations to support her argument, Guinier came across as just as single-minded as the men of her argument. It is these kinds of generalizations that polarize America, pushing futile emotion over rational facts. Her discourse was especially inappropriate given today’s divided political environment. The Arizona shootings, for one, revealed America’s bitter, partisan rhetoric. As Paul Krugman says in his New York Times column, “it’s the saturation of our political discourse… with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.” We need unity now. There is always a time for controversial speech but never a time for speech that aims to cloud amiable conversations through factious and disingenuous commentary. Dr. King would have disapproved of such divisive language. He put it best: “In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” Clay Fisher is a two-year Upper from New York, NY. Kian Ivey is a two-year Upper from Shelbourne Falls, MA.