We come from different places, different experiences, but there is one thing we all share in common. We have all spent two years, ravaged by two pandemics—one the virus, of course, and the other, an emerging awakening to the issues of social justice. It is more important than ever for us to come together to lean into these hard conversations.
We are all aware that this conversation is being held against the backdrop of a divided nation slowly emerging from two years of pandemic infused edginess, disaffection, uncertainty, fear, and almost irrational divisiveness and anger. Without ever expecting it, we have been offered a glimpse into the darker side of America and in some ways the darker side of ourselves. The largely remote nature of our work and our lives over the past two years has done little to ease the tension.
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented action and the real story to be told about community colleges during this dark time is one of resilience, tenacity, dedication, and commitment. Given the populations of students that we serve; given that community colleges are institutions that already—just by virtue of our open-door mission—do more than many when it comes to equity, we continue to strive to do more. No other sector of higher education can do what we can do. If our colleges cannot serve as a bastion of welcome, safety, calmness, inspiration, and hope for all of our students and our colleagues, who will?
The words diversity, equity and inclusion cannot be just a politically correct nicety. They must frame a lens for the faculty and staff upon whom we depend to teach, to influence, to nurture, to mentor students. We know that education is the great leveler and the great lifter. The work we do could not be more important. In so many instances, who will serve these students if we do not!
There is no place for racism and injustice in our society, and definitely not in our classrooms. We are better, stronger and smarter than to allow the differences that make us unique tear us apart. As faculty and administrators, we must continue to work toward being a part of the solution, not the problem.
So, if it is a little seditious for talented, thoughtful and spirited faculty to gather together to explore ways through civil—rather than uncivil—discourse to bring racial and cultural sensitivities into the classroom instead of ignoring them, so be it. At CCBC that spirit has translated into two mantras that we use at our college: “Every One of Us Counts” and “Actions that Matter.” Words are ephemeral, often quickly forgotten; actions can influence change and generations!
Dr. Martha Kanter from the National College Promise Initiative, rightly says, “we have promises to keep.” And we do…and not just to those who look, talk, or sound like us. Awaken from the pandemic and lean into the hard conversations of social justice solutions!