Statement in Solidarity with the African American Community
Benjamin T. Duran Ed.D.
Central Valley Higher Education Consortium
The Central Valley Higher Education Consortium (CVHEC), a consortium of 27 colleges and universities serving the Central Valley of California, ordinarily works with its consortium members to enhance opportunities for valley students to access college and realize their life’s dreams.
However, these are not ordinary times. We find ourselves in dark times looking for the light we know lies out there for our nation. Our country has been through dark times before and we have always emerged as a better people. Once again, as we see our America in these historic times, engulfed in tumultuous scenes of strife and danger, I am compelled to join my CVHEC colleagues in denouncing the resurgence of the racism and bigotry that many have fought, for decades, to quell and eliminate from the America we all strive to create. Today, we stand by, and with, our African American students, faculty, staff and communities of our Central Valley colleges and universities as they join others in the country to grieve and endure the pain of yet another senseless killing of an African American man, who like many of us, was a beloved father and friend. When he left home on that fateful day his family never imagined that they would never see him again.
In the killing of George Floyd, I, along with millions of Americans, witnessed yet another hateful and graphic act of violence against an African American in today’s America. Perhaps as tragic and horrific as this killing was, is the fact that a simple act of humanity and compassion by other police officers present could have prevented the taking of his life. Instead, we saw a complicity that was deaf to the anguished pleas of witnesses on a public street voicing their alarm at what they were witnessing. Sadly, George Floyd’s death was preceded by the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, two other African Americans who suffered the same fate, not because they were violating any laws, but because they were African Americans. These deaths, as tragic as they are, are symptoms of a much larger systemic problem of injustice and equality that the protesters are striving to shed light on through their actions.
As I witness the images of Americans and people throughout the world who join them in using the voice of national protests to convey their anger and anguish at the injustices that are disproportionately thrust upon the African American community, I like many Americans was saddened and sickened by the violence and destruction that we witnessed in media reports, perpetrated by those opportunists whose motives should be questioned and who are not acting on behalf of the vast majority of those on the streets. For many of us, it awakened old wounds and memories from another time when our country faced similar anger and rage. Though these acts of violence may be partially responsible for compelling authorities to file charges against those responsible for George Floyd’s death, I pray that the violence, against all, will begin to subside. I fear, continued violence will detract from the message of those protesting racism and bigotry while also dishonoring the memory of Mr. Floyd and the others who have suffered similar fates. Senseless spurious violence, focused on police officers, protesting citizens or businesses and community centers has no place in the search for solutions that protesting Americans are pursuing.
As I dialogue with friends, family, and colleagues, I am struck by the compassion and solidarity they feel with those on the streets fighting the inhumanity and barbarity that has risen up again in our country and breeds the racism and bigotry that is the antithesis of America. It is times like these when all Americans must join together to address the institutional racism that prevents our African American colleagues, students, and neighbors from successfully addressing the challenges and barriers they encounter, not only in our Central Valley region, but throughout the United States of America.
To that end, I am committed to ensuring that the umbrella of equity, under which CVHEC works, will encourage an ongoing and meaningful conversation on the difficult topics of racism and intolerance in our institutions of higher education in our communities. We must strive to reflect the human values, ethics, and morals that lead to treating everybody equally regardless of our diversity and political differences. We must walk together, side by side, to lead this country out of these dark times to create a more enlightened nation, where truly there will be liberty and justice for all.