A Call to Action

My heart aches for our black brethren.  I am broken-hearted for us.  How did we get here? How did we come to live in a place where hate flourishes while we sit by and say nothing, do nothing as people are killed, brutalized, looked down upon, and denied basic human rights and opportunity because of the color of their skin? 

diverse hands surrounding red heart with NWTC logoIt is easy to comfort ourselves by condemning the actions of others.  But who among us hasn’t switched sides of the street when we see a group of black youth or men walking our way?  Who among us hasn’t seen a black person and immediately asked ourselves if trouble is coming our way?  How many of us have believed, at some level, that the plight of the black American is the fault of their own, even as they disproportionately live in substandard housing, earn less, have less opportunity for their pre-school children and subsequently start out behind in school, rarely catching up?  How many of us have had to have conversations with our sons or daughters about not wearing hoodies, masks, or moving in any way that someone might consider threatening (such as leaning over to get your car registration from the glove compartment)?

The sense of hopelessness, the feeling of helplessness must be overwhelming.  And now we watch on TV, for all the world to see, a police officer murders a black person, a person already handcuffed and on the ground.  This after innumerable stories of violence, racism, and imprisonment visited upon our black community.  Instead of blaming the protesters for the violence and looting predicated by protests, we must hold ourselves accountable for the actions and inactions we have individually and collectively taken that has led us to this time.  I do not condone the violence, but I can begin to understand its root cause. 

Thousands of people are protesting loudly, but peacefully.  Let us remember that they are asking for the same basic human rights that most of us enjoy.  We should not, cannot, let the denial of these rights continue.  Racism, for that is what it is, must be rooted out of our culture.  Like most things cultural, that means every little or big offense, every inequity no matter how large or small, every perception held by each person must be examined and understood so that we may tear out all the beliefs and behaviors that reinforce the negative that has been visited on people of color.

As president of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, I commit to you that the college and I will strenuously work each day to make this happen.  Only in this way will we be able to stand hand in hand with our black brethren and all people of every color!
Jeff Rafn, President
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
June 1, 2020