Surviving Is Not Living
By Kidist Habte, sophomore at Rainier Beach High School
(Editor’s Note: Kidist delivered this speech at the Black Lives Matter at School Student Talent Showcase on March 8 at Cleveland High School.)
Hello everyone, my name is Kidist Habte. I am a sophomore at Rainier Beach High School. Originally, I wrote this speech for my school’s Martin Luther King Assembly, so there’s going to be a lot of Dr. King references. This speech today is called “Surviving Is Not Living”.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny, whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
There are a thousand more quotes that I could’ve chosen by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today, but I chose this because I feel that it’s something that applies to each and every person in this room today. Justice is a word that has been abused by human society. It’s a moral, a form of righteousness, meant to uphold equality for those who have suffered and continue to suffer.
It’s been thrown around improperly by the corrupt in power. When we sit down knowing that there are people in the world who have suffered and have become the stepping stool by those in power, we are just as bad as the perpetrators.
And we allow that same thing to happen to us. We give those same corrupt people the comfort of being able to manipulate justice and us. And when we experience injustice, we become the ones asking ourselves “ Why? Oh, why God, have you allowed me to become the stepping stool? You know I‘m innocent.” But, do you know who else was and is innocent?
The person who was abused, oppressed, and denied of justice, that we refused to help. Because at the moment we were caught up thinking about what was directly affecting us and what isn’t affecting us. We allowed that to dictate our activity when it came to fighting for one another, and because of that we turn our eyes away. That will become the reason for when that one injustice act that we ignored becomes the reason for the million other injustices to come, if we continue looking the other way.
We continue to believe that things that don’t happen in our house, our school, our circle of friends, our town, our workplace has no effect in our lives. This belief, this ritualistic ideal, is a disease that has been embedded by our oppressors and has been passed down through generations.
When our oppressors see that this ideal that they’ve planted is working, they have been guaranteed that we will never come together as one, sharing our experiences, being activists for one another, and providing comfort. When Rosa Parks was asked to give up her seat for a white person, she refused to give her seat up. This made many white people angry because they were pushed out of what was once providing them comfort, which was the obedience of not only Black people, but other people of color. Rosa Parks contributed in the sparking of the civil rights movement. But do you think that if people didn’t join Rosa Parks in boycotting segregation that segregation wouldn’t exist?
What if people said, “Well, it wasn’t me being asked to give up my seat to a white man so this ain’t none of my concern!” would segregation be banned?
What if people chose not to march with Martin Luther King Jr. because they believed that they weren’t the ones being directly affected by inequality existing?
We would still most likely be living through segregation, being asked to give up our seats, our rights, to white people. Do you see my point here?
WE MUST STOP BELIEVING THAT WHAT DOESN’T HAPPEN DIRECTLY TO US DOESN’T AFFECT US! We must open our eyes and realize that we aren’t fighting only for the rights of our own, but the rights for all of us. I’m not saying that every single person in this room has to become a national civil rights activist, but I‘m asking everyone to open their eyes!
The civil rights movement is just as relevant as it was 50 plus years ago! AMERICA HAS NOT CHANGED AS MUCH AS WE BELIEVE IT HAS!
The gap between black folks incarcerated and white folks incarcerated has widened: AMERICA HAS NOT CHANGED!
Black people and hispanic people are denied loans and mortgages just as much as during the civil rights era: AMERICA HAS NOT CHANGED!
People of color are still being paid less than white people, even if they are more certified for the job: AMERICA HAS NOT CHANGED! Just because we aren’t noticing these problems doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Maybe we’re just the ones who are choosing to look the other way.
Cause these problems do exist!
Justice still has not been served. People are still becoming the stepping stool of this country. The movement is not over just yet. We, as the future generation of this country, still have room for growth, for wisdom, and knowledge. We must keep our eyes open. It can start off as small as voting for proper representation. When we use our voices as a group, it becomes louder, stronger, and more meaningful than just one voice!
Surviving isn’t living. Must we continue to condone the bigotry of the world?
That is not living!
Must we look the other way and act as if these problems don’t exist?
That is not living!
We may look the other way, but we can never say we didn’t know.
“Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?”- Michelle Obama