President's musings on Racism and National protests
This is my first President's Blog and musings on various issues related to higher education and societal trends and issues. Today I have chosen to focus on the impact of the surging national protests sparked by the senseless deaths of African Americans in recent months. The protests have stoked passion and debate around the Black Lives Matter movement and race relations in our country. As an educator, an African American, a husband, and father, this alarming sequence of national race-related events are, to say the least, troubling. During these times, my instincts are to pray, analyze, rationalize, ponder, reflect, and come to a resolution on which to act. One of my colleagues recently said, "This one got me," followed with a very poignant statement, "but do I remain silent or say something?" Hearing that, I pledged to do and say something.
I have had long, deep discussions with my family about the complexity of race relations, prejudice, diversity, and inclusion. My wife and daughters have many questions and, at times, would suggest that I should have some of the answers. But not so, because one of the key challenges as an African American male is trying to adequately describe the inner conversation about my level of vulnerability. How do you adequately describe the anxiety of driving and being stopped in an unfamiliar city, or being followed in a store while shopping? Or return to your parked car and deciding it is better to wait until the person parked next to you has left -- especially at night. How do you describe the uncomfortable moment of getting on an elevator (especially if you are the only other person going up) and watching the expressions? All of these "simple" everyday activities can quickly change at a moment's notice without explanation when prejudice or race is applied.
I have spent many decades in my career directly involved in Diversity and Inclusion initiatives and training. Even with periodic cycles of progress, there continues to be a deep and painful generational history of tense race relations and prejudice in our society and globally.
Racism is often referred to as the "Achilles heel" of our country despite our great legacy and respect as the world's leader in democracy. One of my late mentors often said, "Racism is like rain because it's forming somewhere." I believe the time is now urgent for our local religious, business, education, and political leaders to come together and figure out pathways to dramatically change the ways we view and address issues of race, diversity, and inclusion. How can we do that?
Even as an educator, I don't believe education will solve all of our problems, but it is a great place to start. I am a strong advocate for education because it empowers an individual to think critically. Through education, we teach persuasive and argumentative writing, debate modern social problems, evaluate history and the societal patterns of race (both past and present), and interpersonal and public speaking skills, to name a few. It is in the higher education arena that leaders emerge, and creativity and innovation are fostered. So many of our alumni are community and business leaders who continue to give back to their communities.
I submit to you that the more we can encourage individuals to become educated, skilled, and trained for meaningful employment, the more giving back will be fostered, and the more our community relations are improved. WKCTC continues to stand ready to offer education pathways for direct employment or transfer for four-year degrees and beyond.
Hopefully, this blog will provide you an opportunity to also reflect, and most importantly, say and do something.
I will continue the engagement.
Dr. Anton Reece, President, WKCTC