This year, resolve to take part in progress while recognizing diversity

Mark Hammontree

About this time every year, gym owners seem unable to stop smiling as they drink their morning coffee. Pizza places probably see a slight drop in delivery orders. This is the time for resolutions, after all, for looking in the mirror and striving to be better. And while gym memberships and healthy eating and organization are all admirable goals, there are other areas of our lives that need improvement more desperately.

As campus emptied at the beginning of December and students returned home for a few weeks of much-needed rest and recuperation, various events around the country were enveloping the public in a discussion of race, prejudice 
and progress.

Even while protests were still taking place in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere over the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case, a grand jury in New York declined to indict the police officer involved in the choking death 
of Eric Garner. The same old song of anger, outrage and 
disillusionment seemed stuck on repeat, once again filling the country and the airwaves with people crying for justice and others telling them to calm down.

This national conversation on race and racism and on just how much progress remains to be achieved is an opportunity for growth. If we can all work harder to open our ears, maybe we can learn something, maybe we can move forward down the road to a brighter future. Or we can stay stuck where we are, or even worse get turned 
back around.

If these deaths and protests and grand juries have shown us anything, it’s that racism and division is still very much a problem in this country. And it doesn’t help to pass the buck to one region or one party or one person. Racism and inequality are problems we must all recognize and take ownership of, and we must all do our best to make our society better.

Diversity can’t be just about the number of faces in a classroom or boardroom that aren’t white. Diversity can’t be about how many arrest records or indictments. It can’t be about percentages and scholarships. Because diversity isn’t a numbers game, and it isn’t about being in the same room with a person with a different 
skin color.

Diversity is about listening to a person’s story and finding the inherent value in how it differs from your own. It’s about recognizing that we all grow when we learn from each other. It’s about acknowledging that a person’s worth is not determined by where they’re from, how they look or how they speak, but by the very fact they are a human and they have value.

Black lives have no less worth than white lives, or Hispanic 
lives, or Asian lives or Native American lives. Yet we’re not living out this truth in our everyday lives and actions.

Society is built on traditions and beliefs and ideologies and for most of history they have benefited a specific group of people at the expense of everyone else. When you benefit from the status quo, there’s little motivation to see things change. But we have to stop valuing only the things that benefit our own lives and start reflecting and honoring the value we find in others.

So, this year, join me in 
resolving to be better. To stand up and actively combat the institutions that tell me I’m worth more 
than my neighbor. To try harder to listen to the stories of others and to find value in their song. To grow and change and love and learn. Resolve with me to move forward from the crossroads, heading toward that brighter future and picking up anyone we can along 
the way.

Mark Hammontree is a junior 
majoring in secondary education.