GHC Leads Through Education and Unity

Posted on: Jun, 3, 2020

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Dear Grays Harbor College Community,

It has been difficult to find the words to address what has been happening in our nation over the last week as the result of the recent but separate brutal killings of three unarmed African Americans, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

This morning at 8:00 a.m. I was joined on a Zoom call with the members of the GHC Diversity Advisory Committee. We talked about the recent developments and, as their name entails, they offered advice about how to message our students as well as the entire college community. I really appreciated their suggestions and they were certainly focused on one of GHC’s strategic priorities of our mission, specifically our objective to “create a culture of belonging through access and inclusion.”

Unfortunately, the discrimination, brutal violence, racism, anger, hatred, trauma, destruction and chaos is not recent, but has been endemic in this country since the first Euro-American contact and later genocide against the indigenous peoples, and then the first slave ships sent to the New World. Also deeply troubling has been the discrimination and xenophobia aimed at Asians and Asian Americans as the nation has dealt with the COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis. The white privilege which has long characterized this nation continues to this day, despite what seemed like progress made in the 1960s with the civil rights movement. It is deeply troubling to see that we are heading backwards, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those recently slain through this needless and brutal violence.

The brutal act of police violence against George Floyd was in far-away Minneapolis, but with the blink of an eye, in cities across America, arose peaceful protests followed by thoughtless rioting and looting even in cities close to us. This afternoon, I was made aware that one of our own GHC students was posting hate imagery on social media, driving home the point that these shocking developments are happening right here in our own community by an individual who is supposedly receiving an education from us. Racism and hatred always have their roots planted in ignorance, so it is incumbent upon all of us at Grays Harbor College to do all we can to educate, to eradicate prejudice and acts of hatred. We do this by teaching the importance of getting to know people who are different from us, by appreciating what we learn from them and enriching our own growth along the way. We do this by living by our college value, to respect the diversity of people, cultures, ideas, and the environment. We, that is a collective we, do this by respecting and caring for one another through these challenging times. We do this through empathy, by doing our best to understand what it is like to grow up Black and raise a family in a white privileged America. We do this by modeling for our students how to behave civilly, how to disagree respectfully, how to create an environment where everyone, no matter what race, creed, religion, gender of sexual persuasion, age or disability, feels like they belong and they are a cherished part of our community.

It is education that overcomes the ignorance that blinds and dehumanizes people. Just as true in Grays Harbor as it is elsewhere, we know the greatest challenges and equity gaps are experienced by people whose color denies them opportunities, exacerbates so many of life’s challenges and all-too-often makes the innocent the victims of violence, sometimes even at the hands of those sworn to protect us.  Grays Harbor College is here to eradicate such ignorance, and will not tolerate the oppression caused by racism and discrimination.

For me as a white person who has benefited from white privilege, I will strive to do less talking, and more listening to the experiences of people of color (that includes my immediate family members). I will demonstrate sincere empathy, and reflect upon the grief and the trauma of those who have been victimized , acknowledging the pain and the harm that is being done to individuals and communities both in Grays Harbor as well as elsewhere.

This is a very stressful time, I know I am not telling you anything you did not know. As you perform your daily work, please reflect with compassion and empathy for one another and yourself. Continually find ways to stand for what is right, focus on service to those who are most impacted by racism and prejudice and let us emphatically cherish the diversity and the dignity of one another.

Be kind and take care of yourself and others,

Jim Minkler, GHC President


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