Op-ed: It is Up to All of Us to Bring About Change
by Dr. Maurice Scherrens, President of Newberry College - June 1, 2020
Dear Newberry College Community,
This weekend, we saw protests across the country denouncing the killing of George Floyd, which came on the heels of the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery. These protests mark a culmination of countless acts of racism and brutality endured by black men and women throughout this country. Millions of people across the world have lifted up their voices in anger, rightfully outraged at how systemic racism is allowed to persist. Every single day, people of color wake up with the fear of physical harm or unfair treatment for no reason other than the color of their skin. Their voices need to be heard, and actions need to be taken, to ensure that this brutality comes to an end.
Our thoughts go out to George Floyd’s family and to the families of all those victims of violence based on racism and hatred. These acts serve as a stark reminder to all of us that the racial division that has kept us from reaching our full potential as a country continues to haunt us today.
Today we reaffirm our support of the black community, and we commit to being more action-oriented in our support. We must eliminate the atmosphere that continues to sow the seeds of grief, fear and loss into the lives of our black brothers and sisters. This is not what a family does. This is not what family members allow to happen to other family members.
With this coronavirus pandemic, we all wish for re-openings and a return to normalcy. But as former President Barack Obama shared recently, “normal” for millions of Americans has meant suffering daily discrimination, whether in our criminal justice system, our education system, our health care system, or simply jogging down the street. Let’s imagine a new normalcy, one in which these inequities, which we have allowed to continue, are reversed. One in which differences in skin color are embraced give us strength and bond us together toward our common goals. One in which we treat others as we want to be treated ourselves.
To make this happen, those in positions of power and influence must become more selfless, and must develop systems of enhanced inclusivity. And it is up to all of us to bring about change. The journey starts with an honest self-examination, the desire to listen to those who have lives and experiences different than ours, and then a sincere commitment to eliminate any signs of discrimination, unfair treatment or inequity based on race. Often, uncomfortable conversations are keys to healing and allowing others to feel valued and understood.
At Newberry College, we can be leaders in these transformational efforts. We must engage each other in thoughtful dialogue, and we must educate ourselves about the harmful impact that racism has on our fellow Americans. In this pivotal time, multiple Newberry College departments will engage in advancing diversity and inclusivity initiatives across our campus. We will enhance the anti-discrimination training we provide to our faculty and staff. We will afford our students increased opportunities to engage in meaningful dialogue on issues surrounding racism, violence and hatred.
In closing, I am reminded of these meaningful verses from Ecclesiastes: ”There is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven … a time to heal … a time to mourn … a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together … a time to love … a time for peace.” This is our time to turn injustice into justice, and hatred into love. We can build a community where diversity and inclusivity permeate who we are and what we do. Let it start today, and let Newberry College lead the way.
Praying for peace and justice,
Dr. Maurice Scherrens