Clark College honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year by inviting a national social justice educator to shine light on flaws regarding racial equity in America’s education system.
The speaker, Dr. Michael Benitez, Jr., has visited colleges across the nation addressing this issue. Aside from his seminars, Benitez is the dean of diversity and inclusion as well as the chief diversity officer at the University of Puget Sound.
Clark College President Bob Knight introduced Benitez at the event. “It’s fitting at Clark College that we take time out to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr.,” Knight said.
Benitez’s speech discussed minority social injustices, or as he called it, “the oppressed culture.” He explained that schools need to stop creating rules and regulations which generally only benefit the dominant population. Benitez said that schools should be doing more to help its oppressed students.
“Currently in the United States, and especially in the education system, we need to have some sort of dialogue around [social justice], and that is Michael Benitez’s speciality,” said Felis Peralta, Clark’s multicultural retention manager.
Benitez said he aims not only to educate students, but faculty and staff as well. The theme of his discussion was ‘waking up to privileged systems.’
“For MLK, that’s his legacy and his life,” said Melissa Williams, Clark’s student success and retention manager. “To devote himself to those issues of social justice, privilege and social equity.”
Benitez closed his speech with a reminder that King’s work is not yet finished and that we need to keep striving towards his dream.
“When you think about privileged systems, think about that sacrifice, that struggle, that service, that solidarity. This is what it means to live the legacy of Dr. King,” Benitez said.