Welcome back to another post.
Recently in our Humanities class, we have been studying the events of the civil rights movement. We’ve looked at people like Emmet Till, Rosa Parks, and of course the famous Martin Luther King Jr. himself. Overall it has been a great unit so far, and to demonstrate our learning and our understanding of the historical perspective, I’m writing this post. It should be very interesting as I will be comparing contemporary events with that of the civil rights movement in America from the 1950’s to the 1960’s. If you already haven’t read about our recent PLP exhibition, go ahead and read it here, because it shows the learning we were doing right up until the civil rights movement. But let’s get started.
First, what was the Civil Rights Movement? I won’t get into too much detail, but if you wanted to know more, click below to find out the basic summary.
The civil rights movement was a struggle for social justice that took place mainly during the 1950s and 1960s for blacks to gain equal rights under the law in the United States. The Civil War had officially abolished slavery, but it didn’t end discrimination against blacks—they continued to endure the devastating effects of racism, especially in the South. By the mid-20th century, African Americans had had more than enough of prejudice and violence against them. They, along with many whites, mobilized and began an unprecedented fight for equality that spanned two decades.
For this post, I’ll be comparing the actions of two people and the events that took place because of those people. I’ll do this with the driving question of our unit in mind: “How can the actions of an individual change a system?” This post will try to solve this question, with evidence from today, and some from 60 years ago. And the two people I’ve chose to compare to solve the driving question are Martin Luther King Jr. and P.K. Subban.
I’ll start this off by talking about P.K. Subban. Pernell–Karl Sylvester Subban was born on May 13, 1989 in Toronto, Canada. He played hockey all throughout his childhood, and made it into the NHL in the 2nd round, 43rd overall in the 2007 Entry Draft. He was then recognized as the best defencemen in 2013 among other rewards. But how does an African American NHL player be considered similar to Martin Luther King? Well for one, P.K. is known for his colourful personality and his intensity on the ice. A lot of people think he is arrogant and self-absorbed but I think he’s just really outgoing and confident. So, he’s not afraid of the public opinion. In an interview with ESPN, he was asked about what he thought about the opinions of others, and he’s quoted as follows:
“I try to get better every day and continue to do good things, not just for myself, but for the people around me, and just create good energy around me wherever I go, because that’s the only way to live, in my opinion.”
P.K. Subban is also known for his philanthropy. In September, 2015 he announced that he would raise $10 million for the Montreal Children’s hospital by 2022, which was the biggest philanthropic commitment by a sports figure in Canadian History. He was also awarded the Meritorious Service Cross in 2017 in recognition of his generous gift.
And now I’d like to explain the current events concerning P.K. that support my thesis for this post. To answer part of the units driving question, I’ve come up with the following thesis: “For an individual to change a system, they need to have the courage to step out and voice their opinions with the world to make a change.”
Recently, as in early January, P.K. Subban heard about something that upset him. A 13 year old boy from Detroit named Ty Cornett, was playing hockey and was experiencing a lot of racist taunts and harassment as he played through his season from opposing teams and even coaches and parents. This African American boy was very confused and his dad was quite saddened. The harassments were getting increasingly worse as Ty played through three years of hockey, but never wanted to quit. Even when the opposing teams would mock him, beat their chests and call Ty a monkey, Ty kept playing. This was a lot for a 13 year old kid who just wanted to play hockey. So, when he received this video, it meant the world to him.
PK Subban, who had heard because Ty’s father, Matthew, reached out to him, made this video before one of his games to encourage and support Ty. Coming from another black hockey player, this made Ty so much happier and confident. P.K. is now working with hockey organizations in the US to look over the problems and to try to end them.
Around this same time, P.K. heard of another story similar to Ty’s with another black 13 year old hockey player who was going through the same thing.
But how does this compare to Martin Luther King? Well, in this case, I see P.K. as someone who saw a problem, and knew it wasn’t right. He then decided to make a change, and voiced his opinion publicly. He sent the video to Ty via text, and his dad shared it with the world, and it went viral. P.K. was challenging a system, forcing people to think about their actions towards other people. This is similar to the actions of Martin Luther King Jr.’s, and I’ll tell you why.
Martin Luther King, born on January 15, 1929 was the most visible spokesperson for the civil rights movement in the United States. He was an African American reverend who led the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, the nonviolent protests in Birmingham in 1963 and organized the 1963 March On Washington where he delivered his famous I Have A Dream speech. He also won a Nobel Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality with nonviolent resistance. He was then assassinated in Memphis on April 4th 1968 by a man named James Earl Ray.
How does this relate? Well, when he was appointed the official spokesperson of the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, he became the face of the civil rights movement, and gave hope to thousands of black Americans. Martin Luther King saw that there was a definite problem, living in Montgomery, the epicentre for the struggle of civil rights. He stepped up and took on a role that put his life, his families life and many others in danger. But he did it because he wanted to make a change. He was just one guy who was in the right place at the right time in a way. He was living right in Montgomery, with lots of preaching experience, and already had the courage to voice an opinion to the masses. This man was challenging a system – the whole American society at the time. Because he was courageous, intelligent and driven, and because of this he made a change.
Just like P.K. Subban, in a way. P.K. Subban publicly announced that what was happening with Ty wasn’t ok, and even though the video was only sent to Ty, P.K. gave hope to hundreds of other people like Ty. Just like MLK. Martin’s actions made numerous legislation pass to end racial segregation, giving hope to people across all of America and the world.
So I guess you could say that in some ways, P.K. Subban, just a famous hockey player, is inspiring and changing a system like our friend Martin Luther King Jr, even if they live in different times. Through courage, perserverence and the drive to do what’s right two different individuals made a change in a system. Where MLK changed the laws surrounding racial segregation, P.K. has raised awareness and recognition of a problem that still occurs today, and because of him a youth organization called “Players Against Hate” is now in effect. This organization is raising even more awareness for racism in youth hockey, and being recognized by NHL teams and Sports Illustrated.
Overall, these two men have had the courage to stand out and voice their opinions to the masses, and so I think that both of them have changed a system, or are starting to.
Thanks for reading.