MLK 50 - Showing Love in the Face of HateApril 4, 20182 min read
50 years ago today, just hours after delivering his final sermon, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Today we honor his words and his legacy.
Dr. Schvalla Rivera, Southern Utah University’s Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion, celebrates how much Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished in his short 38 years. Dr. King spoke frequently about two concepts - sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity - that are very relevant today.
“We can work with one,” says Dr. Schvalla, “sincere ignorance. You don’t know what you don’t know and that’s the basic meaning of ignorance, but when it comes from a place of sincerity, usually people are willing to talk and engage or at least consider something else. But conscientious stupidity means that you are making a decision to live in error or to believe untruths or misinformation, that’s very dangerous. And very fitting for our current climate."
Dr. Schvalla believes what we need are open minds and open hearts. If Dr. King were alive today, she reasons that he would handle today’s world in much the same way he did in his day.
“He would call out the behavior that is being questioned - racism, bigotry, sexism. But he would also admonish and encourage individuals who want to fight for justice to exercise love and to show patience. That doesn’t mean to be silent, that doesn’t mean to be weak. To show love in the face of hate is one of the greatest strengths that any of us can possess and demonstrate to the world.”
“To be able to sit in front of people who are calling you names or hosing you down with water hoses and to stand. To stand your ground and to reflect love, but also pride and dignity. I think those are the things that he would say. You don’t have to reflect that hate back. It’s counterproductive, it allows people to get off the message and change the conversation. When you operate in love, you operate outside of yourself. You operate for the greater good, and you stay on message.”
Dr. Rivera’s research focuses on multicultural and international student affairs, diversity and inclusion, and racial and ethnic identity. She is familiar with the media and available for an interview.