Progress is a process: MLK’s legacy 50 years later

Alex Rios

Lasana O. Hotep, dean of Student Equity at Skyline College in San Bruno, California, speaks about his unique background as a scholar of African-American studies and the Black Freedom Movement in the United States to examine the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. He takes a look at key events of the past 50 years. Hotep provided insight and commentary through the lens of King’s teachings and activism in Akin Auditorium Monday, Jan. 22. Photo by Francisco Martinez

50 years since the death of Martin Luther King Jr., Lasana O. Hotep, dean of Student Equity at Skyline College in San Bruno, California, delivered a lecture discussing economic injustice and King’s legacy in Akin Auditorium on Jan. 22.

To begin, Hotep explained what he believes is the root of racism.

“The foundation of racism is hatred and ignorance,” said Hotep.

He then spoke about King’s achievements and how they have helped shape America, but also explained how America is nowhere near where it should be, partially because what he refers to as “economic exploitation.”

Hotep said, “[Dr. King] was clear about the economic injustices perpetuated in this country.”

Hotep referred to economic injustice across races, specifically white to black. He included statistics that showcased the different economic statuses of white and black people.

Students voiced their favorite parts of the talk and parts they found most interesting.

“I found a lot of things interesting. [Hotep] talks a lot about culture and Martin Luther King Jr. and how it’s heavily regarded that he fought for economic injustice rather than just social. A lot of the things that common culture wants you to believe is that he fought for civil rights only. He fought for economic injustice.”  RJ Saylor, accounting sophomore, said.

Other students said they liked Hotep’s presentation in discussing topics that are difficult to address.

“He’s clearly well-read, well researched. He makes a point that racism is not a talk that’s gonna be easy.”Damian de Silva, MBA candidate said.

Hotep was introduced by Syreeta Greene, director of the Office of Equity, Inclusion and Multicultural Affairs. She is a colleague of Hotep and has known him for several years.

Greene said, “It’s important that we remember to fight for [economic justice]. [Hotep] always reveals new information in different perspectives.”

At the end of the talk, students stood up to ask Hotep questions regarding his research on the topic. Hotep provided a variety of thoughts and ideas relating to the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., including ideas about the economic disadvantages people of color have.


“A lot of times, people assume Dr. King’s legacy to be a legacy about bringing around racial reconciliation and racial harmony. That was an aspect, but he also had an aspect about economic justice. And if we look at the lens of economic justice, we’ll see that we’re further away from his legacy than we actually thought we were in terms of examining from a lens of racial harmony.”

“If you think that racism is hatred and ignorance than you’re going to approach it one particular way, but if you understand that racism came out of exploitation of population and that racism was used to justify the exploitation, then you’re going to approach it a different kind of way.”

“How do we frame and contextualize racism? If we contextualize racism as a series of misunderstandings between groups, then it’s an approach that’s not really going to the root of it… As professor Jelani Cobb, who’s at Columbia University has said, slavery isn’t a result of miscommunication. Jim Crow wasn’t a result of people who couldn’t get along as far as a conversation. It was about creating a class and cast systems to say one group can have experiences and the other group can’t have experiences and did that based on this notion called race.”

“We are further apart now economically than we were 50 years ago because of the policies that have been able to take people who have wealth and give them more wealth.”

Additional reporting by Latoya Fondren.