Like many of us watching national events unfold this past week, starting with the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, followed by protests in every state of the union, as well as many other parts …
Like many of us watching national events unfold this past week, starting with the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, followed by protests in every state of the union, as well as many other parts of the world, and the ensuing riots and civil unrest — I am deeply unsettled and I am grieving.
I am grieving for George Floyd and his family, but also for his community and the fact that this is far from the first time a person of color in this country has lost their life in such a reprehensible and inhumane manner. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed and Tony McDade, and too many others. I am also grieving for the state of our country and that in 2020 we are still struggling with civil rights issues; that the overwhelming pain, trauma and hopelessness of an entire people brought on by the systemic racism in our society is still alive and well in our world.
We all may not ever fully understand what it means to walk in those shoes, but it is a moral imperative that we stand with those who do — now more than ever. We must acknowledge that terrible injustices occur every day and we must do the difficult work to remake a world where we truly see and value each other, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or genetic information. We need to do the work within ourselves, examining our own unconscious biases and behaviors and have the difficult and uncomfortable conversations. We are the authors of what happens next. It starts with us.
I want to make clear, on behalf of Northwest College and myself personally, that racism in any form will not be tolerated at NWC. We may feel far away from it in our rural corner of northwest Wyoming, but the United States is on a precipice that has been a long time coming, and conversely has not come fast enough. Colleges and universities have a role to play in reshaping policies, practices and curricula in a way that does not inadvertently exclude or diminish the histories and futures of people of color.
As president of NWC, I commit to such a reshaping. We are and will continue to build and promote diversity and inclusion. We will continue our vibrant intercultural programs, bringing the cultures and stories of our international students to life through ongoing programming, meals and activities at our Intercultural House. We will continue curriculum such as Race and Ethnic Relations, and our courses on the literature, history and anthropology of Native American cultures. We will continue the strong partnership between our Criminal Justice program and local law enforcement in helping shape the law enforcement officers of tomorrow. We will give our students the tools to examine what they think about these complex issues and entrust them to contribute to meaningful change.
I encourage you all to examine your own values on this matter, and use these turbulent times to seek credible sources and educate yourself on these issues. To say and do nothing at this pivotal moment in history is to quietly condone the unspeakable tragedies over centuries that have brought us to this critical juncture.
We can and we must do better.
(Stefani Hicswa is the president of Northwest College. She offered this message to the NWC community on Thursday.)