A Call for Unity

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Photo taken June 1, 2020 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Photo used with permission from Ray Wright & Detective Sergeant John Schira, Appleton Police Department (pictured).

Normally in this blog I stay away from the constant barrage of incidents, actions, and controversies of the day in our state or country, but not this time.  My heart breaks to see this nation being ripped apart, both literally and figuratively because of the historical injustice to people of color and the continuous cycle of oppression.  It’s especially difficult to see this when the daily work of our college is to build people up, develop skills and abilities for brighter futures, support economic development in our region, and advance our communities.

The recent event in Minneapolis leading to the death of George Floyd and countless other incidents over the years are constant reminders of the effects of inequity and racism in our communities. And our college’s understanding of the needs of those we serve is critical to eliminating the historical inequities that stand in the way for many of our staff, students and community members.

We must now, more than ever, be comfortable listening to those affected, seeking out targeted strategies to ensure that opportunities are accessible, and implement actions to ensure that achievements are possible for everyone regardless of individual abilities, differences, and backgrounds. Let’s learn from the vast experiences of our business, professional and community leaders of color, seek their input, and value their contributions as we transform challenges into opportunities.

One of our organization’s core values is diversity, a value that we do our best to live and support every day.  We do this by recruiting and serving a diverse student body in numbers even greater than the growing diversity of our communities.  We do this by dedicating staff and resources to specifically focus on advancing students and staff of color, supporting their success and opportunities.  We also do this by continuously educating ourselves on the challenges of inequity and ways in which we can continue to close current gaps.

Central to current civil unrest are deep issues of social justice and policing in America – very justified outrage given the pattern of incidents of police brutality involving people of color.  I’m particularly dismayed about the issues at hand because at FVTC we offer some of the finest law enforcement training in the country.  For many years we’ve worked with area law enforcement agencies to increase student, instructor, and agency diversity to better reflect our communities.  We prepare officers to serve and protect everyone, placing great emphasis on cultural competence, ethics, critical thinking and professional communication skills.

We have much work to do here in this region and across the country.  We all do – every person, every organization, every level of government.  But this work in rebuilding can only truly advance with a sense of unity – coming together to work on issues that affect us all, especially our disenfranchised community members; not through division and all of the forces that work to divide us in so many ways.

We remain committed as a college to continue working collaboratively with diverse community members, law enforcement agencies, K-12 school districts, non-profit organizations, and others to focus on not just words, not just dialogue, but additional actions to ensure that all members of our community have opportunities and can experience the highest levels of success possible.

I know that the uncertainty we face right now is troubling and unsettling for many in our community and would encourage anyone experiencing anxiety, sadness or deep feelings of fear or anger to reach out for help.  I’ve linked here a number of college and community resources available:  www.fvtc.edu/emergency-resources

Finally, a personal note to our students and staff of color:  I see you, I hear you, I care about you and your future, and we will all continue to learn from you and find ways to ensure that you continue to feel welcome, valued and appreciated at FVTC.

7 thoughts on “A Call for Unity

  1. Specter

    You’re right Dr. May,
    I’m sorry this is such a long post, but I need to get this off my chest, take from it what you will, or don’t. Not all of us African Americans feel as though we are being oppressed by an authority. Although, I’ve been there time and time again, being held back and strong armed is draining, the loss of hope sets in but only a few find a way to cope. We learn how to use the stress to become stronger, not the other way around. The rest either crack under pressure or fall into a perpetual downward spiral, the end result is refusing to see their faults for the sake of taking responsibility. The thing is, I eventually came to the realization that it was me holding myself back, I grew tired of blaming others for my lack of progression.
    Now out of all of my encounters with police, I’ve never once been called a racial slur, or hit with a racially offensive gesture, I’ve always been met with professional courtesy by police officers who at the worst, take about 20 minutes to check my ID before sending me on my way. I’ve always complied, I’ve always identified myself, I’ve always respected their time and received it in return. One upon a time, I walked home with soggy laundry after a former friend’s roommate lost his cool. He didn’t believe me when I told him I had permission to wash my laundry in their apartment. Guess who pulled over by the road to give me a ride home, not my friend at the time, but a cop. But what’s sad about that, is everyone’s experience with cops are in many cases down right horrible.
    I’ve been racially profiled by more college students than cops, called all kinds of slurs by complete strangers, and even former co-workers. I’ve even been assaulted by my own race on more than one occasion, for absolutely no reason, apart from it being gang initiations. Every encounter with the police has been a positive one on my end. No one wants to listen to reason when I try to explain that not all cops are bad. Don’t get me wrong, yes there is systemic racism in society, but it is not fed strictly by the hands of public authority. The officers who are the cause of all this chaos deserve to be punished. No one deserves to have a knee on their neck, or their murderers beating a case and walking free. But as hard as it is to say this, the truth is that there will always be bad cops on the force, in some cases, departments want them. No amount of reforming or de-funding will fix this, everyone is hard set in their ways, they may fake being good guys for a little while, but they always crack eventually. If we want to see change, then more good people should join the force and see for themselves what it’s like to be in that line of work. Being ex military, it’s hard! People can be pure Evil, the badge or medal matters little to a career criminal. So unfortunately, I can’t stand on either side of the fence, both sides are right and both sides are wrong. I still want to complete the CJ program, and maybe even join the force myself, but currently, my opinions are about as divided as this country. All I want, is to protect those who are unable to protect themselves, the last thing I want to be called is “pig”.

    1. Dr. Susan A. May

      So many great points here, Specter. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on these complex issues and wide range of experiences. We all need you in the CJ program, and we need you in the honorable ranks of law enforcement.

  2. Linda Schmid

    Specter, thank you for sharing your story. I just want to say that as a person who has had mainly good experiences with police officers, I cannot watch what is happening to so many people and just disregard it. I do not care what color a person is or whether they have respectfully complied with a police person or even if they have a criminal history…We cannot as a society say that it is alright to murder people because an officer doesn’t like your looks or your behavior. These protests are not a sign of disrespect to the police; they are a call to a higher level of professionalism and conscience on the part of some police officers – and a call to enforce that professionalism if necessary.

    1. Specter

      Absolutely, I agree 100%. I’m all for police reform and training. I’m all for agencies instilling a greater sense of professionalism within their rosters, but there’s more to it than that. I just watched a video of a rioter throwing a petrol bomb at a group of police officers, no one was seriously injured, but what if? An even better question would be, what if the cops threw a petrol bomb or a grenade into the crowd? How fast would the media jump on that? There are questions that many of us are too afraid to ask in fear of crossing a line, and I’m still waiting for the media to address black on black crimes, which I’m positive will never happen. There is more behind the curtain than what is being shown to the public, and in order for someone to see it truthfully for themselves, I’d advise them to move to Detroit MI, Gary, IN, Compton, CA, or Albany, GA, to name a few.

      I hate to use such extreme wordage, but since the beginning of this conflict, I’ve been on the edge of my composer trying my hardest to keep from becoming over stressed, and of course, so has everyone else. But for the first time in years, I am afraid, not of the police, but of my own people. If they are willing to set flame to an innocent establishment, just how far are they willing to go until entire country says enough is enough? Meanwhile, no one has been able to explain why two of my family members were shot by gang members, or why a group of 16 year old’s wearing purple hoodies decided to jump me, then pull out a Glock the moment I chose to defend myself, but it’s perfectly fine to tell me that someone else is being the aggressor towards me because of my race or skin color, or how I should feel when dealing with these sorts of experiences. Granted, every moment is a painful experience, but it drives me into a feeling of strength, I don’t know how to explain it completely, but in a way, pushing me tends to do that. But let me be clear on this, I am not a victim, I am not one someone who bends easily, I do not demand respect, I am neither ignorant nor incapable of rational thought, I do not need someone to speak on behalf me, (I’m talking to you Lebron James!) and I most certainly DO NOT want reparation! I can think for myself, and I will question the logic of a specific subject with my own brain, when necessary.

      Since the 27th of July, I now have the means of defending my own home from a possible threat. Here’s to hoping it never comes to that. Honestly, I’m only in it for the sport you see, being an ex military grunt, I’m rather talented at it. In any case, I’d rather sit on the sideline and see where this leads, hopefully in the near future, we will find a way to let this go, and allow the politics to implement proper police reform on a national scale. Because lets be honest, despite my banter, I agree that we are due for reform, but not complete abolishment.

      The best thing we can do at this point, is simply wait out this storm. Stand guard, and see to it that nothing goes too far.

      Thank you for the input, I’m always open for interpretations. We are forgetting that is what this country is all about.

      Take care.

      1. Linda

        Specter, you are ever so right. We definitely do not want abolishment of the police, in fact I have only heard people talk about a certain amount of defunding so that certain issues that should not be the police’ responsibility could be laid elsewhere (such as dealing with people on the spectrum who would be better served by talking to a social worker).

        I am impressed at your thoughtful analyses and ability to look fairly at another’s point of view…that is increasingly rare in these divided times. I too hope that it does not come to you having to defend yourself and that we can resolve all of this with common sense and compassion.

        I wish you all the best.
        -Linda

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