As have you, I have followed the news regarding the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, including here in Warrensburg, intended to bring awareness to the circumstances surrounding his killing, and, in the much broader context, the systemic mistreatment of so many others. I am deeply saddened that I continue to find that one's race/ethnicity determines how one is fundamentally treated. We have achieved so much, yet we continue to struggle with the most basic constructs of the inherent dignity and equality of all individuals. I have heard from our own colleagues, just within the last few years, of disparate treatment they have received while representing UCM, with no explanation for this disparity other than what was directly observable--the person's race/ethnicity.
Having spent my youth in the south, I witnessed the legacy of "separate but equal" laws which definitely meant "separate", but for which "equal" was in name only. It has always been my hope that recognizing our commonalities as people would suppress and eliminate racism from the collective mindset. For fundamentally, we all aspire to live in a society in which our own efforts and those efforts alone determine our ability to achieve on merit and live free from prejudice. It also has always been my hope that education, which made such a difference in my own life, would be the great equalizer given the correlation between race and poverty. And this hope is a principle reason I have spent my career in education in order to do my part, no matter how small, to promote a more equitable society.
And yet today, at this point in our history, it is easy to question why we find ourselves with still so much left undone. And, it is understandable, at this moment, if we are wondering what to do next. We will not avoid a repeat of what happened to Mr. Floyd if we do not acknowledge and recognize as wrong the root cause of this tragedy. If we do not call out racism and do our part to remove it, we risk an endless repeat of what we have observed over this last week and worse, a lingering suppression of and outright harm to others.
Today, we must commit to listen, self-reflect, and not over-generalize. Those who bravely and peacefully protest are to be applauded, supported and heard. And those in law enforcement who serve honorably, dedicated to the public trust and the selfless protection of all members of our community, are themselves to be recognized and admired. As a University, it is our duty, our reason for being, to promote learning, discourse, understanding and solutions derived from critical evaluation. We are all bound together by our shared humanity and as such, we owe one another a fundamental respect and honorable treatment. This is our great responsibility.
As president for this incredible institution, I can assure you that I remain committed to promoting and supporting an open, collegial, diverse and welcoming community for any and all who come here be they student, staff, faculty or visitor. Anything less is unacceptable.
Dr. Roger Best
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