Tragedy in Dallas

Dallas Police Chief David Brown, an African American whose own family and friends have been ravaged by violent death, spoke for a nation and to a nation when he said, “All I know is that this must stop, this divisiveness between our police and our citizens.”

America still has far to go in confronting and ending the implications of its history of racial divide, and the challenges have been escalated by the economic stagnation of the middle class, by the increasing availability of guns, and by the astonishingly low level to which rhetoric in the Presidential campaign has sunk–a rhetoric designed to bring out the worst rather than the best in Americans. There are bad actors in every group, but they do not characterize the group–whether the police or the members of a minority group–which is made up of hundreds of thousands or millions of individual Americans who share the challenges common to all of us–seeking love, supporting and raising a family, working effectively, and living a meaningful life.

While we at Pace cannot solve the nation’s problems, we can meet our own challenges. Like the rest of America, about half of our student body is made up of minorities. In that sense we are a microcosm of the nation. Our community shares a deeply-rooted belief that Opportunitas is all about giving every student the preparation to be the best that he or she can be, and that an essential element of achieving that goal is to take advantage of our diversity and to work together in teams in which each student learns from the different perspectives, life experiences, and culture of the others. The more clearly we learn to see the world through the eyes of those with different backgrounds, the more we see them as individuals and not as undifferentiated members of a group. If we cannot succeed in that effort, how can our nation? If we can succeed, why cannot our nation?

At the same time that we grieve for those who have died or been wounded, we need to continue to deepen our conversations with each other and to deepen our understanding of those of different races, cultures, and backgrounds. To do otherwise is to remain ignorant. As a university, our role is to abolish ignorance.

So please reach out to others; if you think Town Hall or other meetings would be helpful, talk to Student Affairs; take advantage of Counseling Services to talk through your reactions in a more private way; and let me have any other suggestions by e-mail or through your comments.

Four tragedies and one unfulfilled dream

Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Rumain Brisbon never knew each other. Garner called Staten Island, New York, home. Rice lived in Cleveland, Ohio; Brown hailed from Ferguson, Missouri; and Brisbon came from Phoenix, Arizona. Yet despite the distance between them, their names will be forever linked as the four unarmed African American males whose lives were cut short during the latter half of 2014. That their deaths were senseless and tragic there is no doubt. And there is also no doubt about the need to improve the tense, stressful relationships between many police departments and the communities of color they serve. We cannot be satisfied with a society in which African American mothers and fathers fear the simple act of their sons walking down the street.

Deep and vigorous discussions of these issues are good ones. Questions need to be asked, and peaceful protests can emphasize to officials the seriousness of these discussions. No other unarmed African American males, or anyone else, should die needlessly. All lives matter.

Remember that the legacies of Garner, Rice, Brown, and Brisbon are more than instruments of social change. They were fathers, sons, and brothers. Their deaths left dreams unfulfilled and huge empty spaces in the lives of the people who loved them. Those spaces will never be filled.

Remember, too, that police departments and the officers who comprise them are not single, monolithic entities. In every police department, there are officers who excel at their jobs and others who are unsuited for the work. There are officers who are hailed as heroes for risking their lives to save others one day and who are condemned for split-second, life or death decisions the next day. Let’s never draw conclusions without all the facts.

Finally, remember that, while discussions about race relations are good, there is so much more to accomplish. I was a young lawyer working in Washington, D.C., during the 1960s and was one of the 250,000 people on the Washington Mall in August, 1963 when Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. That day, Dr. King reminded us that it had been 100 years since President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but there was still work to do before anyone was truly free. Fifty one years later, the killing of four unarmed, African American males at the hands of the police in the last six months is proof there is still much work to do.