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June 2, 2020
Sent to Student Development Staff
Student Development Team,
I have spent a lot of time over the last few days reflecting on what has been happening in our country, specifically the murder of Black people at the hands of the police. I have been thinking about the life I lead and the privilege I have to be able to step in and out of those reflections (the ability to do that is called ‘white privilege’) and finding ways to hold myself and others in my community accountable to make change. It’s hard to know what to say or do when this just keeps happening. But, that cannot hold us back from engaging with our friends, family, colleagues, and legislators. It cannot stop us from taking tangible actions to address these issues. We cannot become complacent. The lives of our Black community members literally depends on us not to be.
As I continue to read and learn about those who have been murdered, I can’t help but to think about our community at LWTech.
George Floyd was murdered when a police officer put his knee on his neck even after he stated multiple times that he couldn’t breathe. George was a 46 year old father to a 6 year old child. George attended South Florida Community College (now South Florida State College) from 1993-1995 and played on the school’s basketball team. I find myself thinking of all of our students and where they go when they leave us. Never should they be murdered at the hands of the police.
Breona Taylor was killed in her home by stray bullets the police indiscriminately shot during an erroneous “no knock” drug search. Breona was a 26 year old ER Tech who was aspiring to become a nurse. I found myself thinking about all of the students we have at LWTech who could have been Breona.
I also think about how those that perpetrate these murders and the attitudes that lead to them who are also in our community.
Amy Cooper is a white woman who had her dog off leash in Central Park, despite signs requiring all dogs be leashed. An avid bird watcher in the park, Christian Cooper, who is Black, asked her to leash her dog. Rather than do so, she called the police, lied, and stated that an African American man was threatening her life. In that moment, Christian’s Harvard education didn’t matter. All Amy Cooper saw was a black person who she could weaponize her whiteness over by way of the police, who she knew would believe her. While I believe with my whole heart as an educator that education is vital in the fight for social justice, it is not the great equalizer. Christian’s Harvard education isn’t visible when he walks through the park, but his black skin is. As a white woman, I feel a particular responsibility for Amy Cooper and other women who center their own discomfort even if it puts their Black peers in harm’s way. I cannot separate myself from her and her actions. It’s this that drives me to continue to learn, take action, and educate fellow white people.
Glennon Doyle has a quote that resonates with me “we are mugs filled to the brim, and we keep getting bumped. If we are filled with coffee, coffee will spill out. Getting bumped is inevitable. If we want to change what spills out of us, we have to work to change what’s inside us.” Amy Cooper got bumped. Racism spilled out of her because she is filled with it. How can we change what spills out of us?
I urge you to reflect on what it is that you can do in your community, with your friends, with your family, at LWTech. What can you do to make this world a safer place for Black people? How are you standing up to injustice when you see it? How can you commit to being anti-racist?
Personally, I have been taking action by donating, protesting, and engaging in difficult conversations. If you have specific questions about the actions I’ll be taking or want guidance on ways you can help, please reach out. I am also here if you want to talk, share further reflection, or ask questions. It’s important to me that I educate others and do not put the burden of these conversations on our black colleagues. I encourage you to check out this resource for more information on how to get started. With that said, if your Black colleagues are sharing: Listen.
I encourage you to all take care of yourselves. As always, I am supportive of all leave requests and am here to cover for you if you need me to. Please do not hesitate to ask me for what you need. I am here for you, I am here with you.
Ijeoma Oluo tweeted that “the beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including yourself. And it’s the only way forward.” I agree with her and to that end, I have been listening to a lot of Sam Cooke this week and am hopeful that “a change is gonna come.” Will you join me in committing to work towards that change?
Katie Peacock M.Ed. (formerly Katie Viola)
Director of Student Development
Lake Washington Institute of Technology
Mon-Fri, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Mon-Fri, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sat, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.