People can carry on the ideals expressed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by becoming personally involved in fighting discrimination, a Kansas University panel said Monday night.
During an event marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a group of about 50 students and KU professors specializing in race relations and sociology listened to speeches by King and discussed whether his goals have been met since his death on April 4, 1968.
Norman Yetman, professor of American studies and sociology, said America has eliminated "formal vestiges" of segregation. But he said that has led to a "false sense of complacency."
Yetman said studies show blacks and whites have different perceptions about prejudice and discrimination: Many blacks still feel they are being discriminated against, while whites largely feel whites do not experience discrimination, he said.
CLOSING THE gap in such perceptions is important, Yetman said.
"One of the basic issues we have to confront is we're not talking to each other," he said.
Dorthy Pennington, associate professor of African-American studies and communication, said that if King were alive today, he would want people to end physical and psychic confrontations that often turn violent.
"I think that King would say to us today that we need to eliminate both kinds of violence," she said.
An example of psychic violence is segregation, vestiges of which are prevalent today, Pennington said.
Frank Williams, sociology student and member of the Black Student Union, said it was important not to trivialize Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"WE HAVE already lost New Year's to a resolution, Easter to a bunny, Thanksgiving to some turkey and dressing, and Christmas to a man in a red suit," he said.
"King saw a clear mountaintop that does not exist now," but can be reached, he said.
Members of the audience discussed the tactics of King and another civil rights crusader Malcolm X, who was the subject of a recently released movie.
Pennington said that although their messages were different, both King's and Malcolm X's civil rights activities were rooted in acts of violence they suffered while growing up.