“What is it that we all need to see?” Daniel Hill, author of “White Awake,” asks when referring to dismantling the system of racial injustice. At University of Findlay’s 2020 MLK Celebration on Jan. 22, Hill discussed how to continue Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy by trying to view the concept of race on a common ground, regardless of culture or upbringing. “I’m a pretty big believer if you don’t see the same thing, you’re not going to be able to move forward in a unified way,” he said.
At 24-years-old, Hill, officiated a cross-cultural wedding and made a comment to the Indian groom that he was jealous and wished he had a culture. The groom responded by saying, “Not only do you have a culture, but when your culture comes in contact with other cultures, it almost always wins. One of the best wedding gifts you could give me is to get serious about your own culture.” Hill used this as a catalyst to begin studying under people who studied the concept of race. In his journey to understand race, he kept hearing the same thing, “You will never understand race until you understand that race is a social construct.”
He had to come to terms with the fact that a lot of the terms surrounding the conversation of race are used interchangeably, which creates confusion. Two terms that are commonly interchanged are “ethnicity” and “race.” Hill said these two terms couldn’t be more different. He describes ethnicity as a tribe, a nation, or a people group, and race as social categories built of perceived biological differences. This concept of race is sustained by a set of lies known as the Narrative of Racial Hierarchy, which is the operating system of white supremacy that assigns human value based on a person’s proximity to whiteness (superiority) and/or blackness (inferiority). “The system of race recognizes differences, which is not the problem. The problem is it assigns human value to those differences,” Hill said.
Hill went on to make the biblical connection that the system of race is not just bad, but demonic because the concept of race was created for purely evil purposes. He says that it is clear in scripture that the way evil works is through lies. “One of the ways we are able to hear God’s voice is to distinguish between truth and lies. The voice of Jesus sounds like truth and the voice of the devil sounds like lies.” One of these lies is the concept of race and that any person is more valuable than another because of their biological differences, he explained.
Hill is currently the pastor of River City Community Church, a vibrant, multiethnic church in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, whose vision is oriented around the three pillars of worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development. In his book “White Awake,” he addresses the recent eruptions of racial discord, anger, and overall polarization in America.
The celebration also featured a poetry reading of “Isn’t It Right? We Are Equal” by Jennifer Byrne, an Indian traditional dance, and a traditional African drum performance. The celebration concluded with a unity walk through the Cory St. mall and prayer led by Matt Ginter, director of Christian Ministries.
Other public MLK, Jr. Week diversity and service events on UF’s campus include:
- Toiletry Drive – From Jan. 21-24, donations of shampoo, soap, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and deodorant will be collected at the Alumni Memorial Union, Center for Student Life, Davis Street Building lobby, and the Buford Center for Diversity and Service at 1222 N. Cory St. Monetary donations will be accepted at the Buford Center. On Jan. 25, the collected toiletry items will be distributed, along with 10,000 pounds of groceries, at the mobile food pantry sponsored by UF and CHOPIN Hall.
- Mobile Food Drive Pantry – On Jan. 25 beginning at 6:30 a.m., a mobile food pantry will be held at the University. To volunteer, please contact David Chau at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These University of Findlay events honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are sponsored by the University of Findlay Diversity Initiative and the Buford Center for Diversity and Service. For more information, contact the Buford Center at 419-434-5798.
More photos from the celebration can be found on UF’s Flickr album.