John Amaechi: A Great Speaker, But We Can't Pick and Choose

john-amaechi-2-sized   Patrick Elliott Staff Writer This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day speaker was quite different than previous years, mainly because the Latin community seemed to enjoy him. Mr. John Amaechi, former NBA player and current psychologist, spoke to us all during our MLK assembly. He touched on his racial and sexual identities and how they affected him throughout his life. His engaging anecdotes led to him telling us all to be more than “nice” when dealing with people. He argued that going the extra mile to learn someone’s name could mean the world to a person. We were all encouraged to engage in a conversation with someone who might be too nervous to initiate one themselves. These tiny things, he said, would help everyone become a little more understanding. By putting a name to a face, or being able to reference a previous conversation with a person, maybe we all won’t be as quick to judge those different than us. I loved Mr. Amaechi’s assembly, but after it I wondered why it was so well received, compared to previous speakers (not just MLK speakers, but everyone). After all, his message pretty much had the same theme as every other speaker Latin has had in the past: don’t be quick to judge, and accept people for who they are. I believe that receiving — or not receiving — a speaker’s message is partly due to Latin’s comfort level for acknowledging inequality. We as a community like to think of our school as fairly progressive, and willing to fix the injustices that haunt our world. However, whenever a speaker tells us to do just that, majority of us respond with something similar to “I really don’t see what the problem is”. A lot of students don’t like when injustice is brought up because they don’t like it being thrown in their faces. Some of my classmates have told me that during assemblies, they feel like the speaker is attacking and criticizing them for privilege they have no control over. On the contrary, I didn’t hear any critiques after Amaechi’s talk, and I think it was because of his delivery. Telling us about his life, while throwing in the racial and sexual injustices he faced made the talk feel more like a story, and less like a lecture. He was able to get his point across while still keeping the audience engaged. A lot of people don’t like these conversations if they are strictly serious. Discussing injustices at a school where majority of the population doesn’t face injustice is necessary, but some of my peers would disagree with me. But yet those same people enjoyed the talk, because they weren’t forced to hear a lecture about racism or homophobia. It was a man’s life story, in which racism and homophobia happen to play a part. Mentioning how being a tall black man made him appear as a monster was perfectly fine, because that statement was surrounded by stories of his family as well as jokes about his life. Injustice is a serious matter, but Amaechi’s jovial manner allowed our student body to receive his words. The only problem I have is that some students dismiss these talks, if they aren’t delivered in their preferred method. Honestly, racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and all other injustices are too influential in our society for us to pick and choose when we will pay attention to them.    ]]>