A person’s worth cannot be defined by their ethnicity and the color of their skin, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said to local high school students Tuesday at the Governor’s Mansion.
Archbishop Tutu gave a 15-minute speech to select students from Lincoln High, FAMU DRS and Godby High Schools as a part of the governor’s Black History Month celebration.
Sponsored by the Black Caucus USA-Africa Institute, Tutu addressed the negative affects of racism and encouraged students to make a difference and to stand up for justice.
“Racism made slavery possible. It gave others the freedom to enslave other humans and treat them like cattle,” Tutu said. “It (racism) made the Holocaust possible, it made apartheid possible…it even made lynchings possible.”
Using his own childhood as an example, Tutu told students that he was raised in a country that deliberately used ethnicity and skin color to determine a person’s worth.
He said race attribution is always wrong and that it does not tell anything about the person.
“How could we be ever so stupid to think that ethnicity and skin color can tell about a person,” said Tutu.
“It’s just utterly ridiculous. The thing that says what you are worth is that we are created in the image of God.
“We are God’s representatives and stand-ins,” he said. “To treat otherwise is blasphemous…it’s like spitting in the face of God.”
Tutu’s message reached out to students who shared similar views with him.
“His presence was so warm,” said Taurean J. Lewis, 17, Student Government president at Lincoln High. “He was able to give a passionate message about the end of racism. It’s rare to give an effective message like that to a mixed crowd,” he said.
Miss FAMU Hope Hampshire said that she expected more from the event, but that it wasn’t in vain.
“I praise him for all the work he has done and what he continues to do,” the 21-year-old senior from Green Cove Springs said. “The fact that he took a stance on America going to war with Iraq said a lot to me,” she said.
Tutu said that many young people want to defend democracy but are concerned about the fate of people in Iraq. He encouraged students to stand up for what they think is right and to make a difference with what they have.
“He showed that even though the apartheid movement is over, that he won’t stop serving his purpose,” Hampshire said. “And that it is important to stand up for what you know is right.”
DeAnna L. Carpenter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org