Calling King “the greatest orator in 20th century America,” Bradley W. Bateman encouraged students to read King’s speeches and letters. “I hope you'll take the time to study an episode in his life. Find out how he lived. Find out about American society at the time. He faced more than you face, and he faced it with great courage.
“If we take his legacy seriously,” Bateman added, “we must name what we see and must be honest about the violence that we see in front of us.”
During the Wednesday service, Bateman cited several examples demonstrating that racism continues to affect American society, including threats of violence against African Americans, obstacles to voting rights, the acceptance of racial epithets, and the denial by many that racism exists.
“Race relations and race in America have changed since I was the age of you students,” Bateman said. “But much has not changed. I think we have to face that honestly, and we have to fight it.”
Several factors make it harder to discuss the issue of race, however. “It’s become much more difficult to deal with race in our country because of the mainstreaming of hate in the media,” Bateman said. “Hate is now used as entertainment. Hate is used for fun, and hate is used as a joke.
“Despite the mainstreaming of hate in the media, despite the complexities of race in the 21st century, we must face that hate with courage, strength, and nonviolence,” following the example that King set, Bateman said.
Bateman asked the College community to work together to help eradicate racism and its effects.
“We must go into the community together—students, faculty, and staff alike. We must work in this community to establish justice and equality,” he said. “We can work for voting rights. We can work against poverty. We can work against hunger, and we can work for educational access.”
“We depend on you greatly,” Bateman told Randolph students. “Face the world with courage. Fight for equality, fight for justice, and fight for peace.”
You can watch the full speech here.