Dear WSU College of Education community,
I am deeply saddened by the killing of Mr. George Floyd, a Black American, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. We have witnessed several killings of Black and Brown people in America in recent years, and tragically, in recent months. The video and sound of Mr. Floyd’s killing is shocking. I grieve for his family, the Minneapolis community, and our country. It’s clear to me that while this country has made progress with respect to civil rights, when it comes to race, we continue to fail. We have much work to do.
I very much appreciate President Kirk Schulz acknowledging this tragedy, and brutal racism, at the start of Friday’s COVID-19 Town Hall meeting. He promised that the WSU community would continue to work toward a safer and more inclusive environment. Indeed.
In my lifetime, I have witnessed this nation struggle through many protests and uprisings across the country. From the Vietnam War protests to the cause for civil rights. Many of these protest demonstrations (though not all) boiled over into violence and the destruction of property, as we’ve seen the last couple of days in cities across the country.
The TV images illustrate many of the emotions being felt in the U.S., spanning from sadness, fear, and enormous frustration, to sheer anger. It is palpable. And while I don’t condone the violent behavior in some of these protests, I certainly understand it. To be accurate, some of the violence and property destruction is likely to be fueled by fringe groups with alternate agendas. Most importantly, we must not let these fringe actions distract us from the central issue of racism. This isn’t a political issue. It is a moral issue. No person should fear being chased while jogging and eventually gunned down, simply because of the color of their skin, as Ahmaud Arbery was recently. No one should fear having their door knocked in, and shot and killed in their own home, as happened to Breonna Taylor just weeks ago. No one should fear police brutality and the threat of being killed, simply based on the color of their skin. Yet, sadly, it’s clear in our communities this fear is far too real and the stakes are high.
My first reaction when learning of this most recent tragedy was thinking: I must do something. That was followed by: What can I possibly do? I am just a college dean and this is a national issue that has been here for centuries. Racism unfortunately, is deeply embedded in the historic fabric of our U.S. culture. We have outstanding scholar activists in the College of Education who understand that they are privileged members of the academy that have a duty to serve those in racialized communities. The conversations we have with them help us increase the value we put on diversity, inclusion, and social justice. My thought came to this: We all can – and must – do something to address racism.
In the days and weeks to come, know that the college Leadership Team will discuss this issue and work toward a path forward for the college. We will be consulting others in the college as things unfold.
This college has done great work with respect to the principles of diversity, inclusion, and social justice, but that work is far from complete and its importance is more obvious now than it has ever been. Thus, I am re-committing the college to the central principles of diversity, inclusion, and social justice.
This is our moral imperative.
Dean, College of Education