Change starts with all of us
As a college that stands for a welcoming, open and accessible educational environment, and as educators, it is our commitment to seek truth, and learn and reflect upon how we can improve our society. Together, we can help create a socially just world.
Our nation has come to a reckoning of our country's historic and systemic racial and class inequities. We commit to stand in solidarity and take action with the Black community for a better future and a different reality.
What will you do with your power?
by TCC President Ivan L. Harrell, II, Ph.D.
Over the past six or so years, hundreds of Black people have been killed by police officers, with some getting national attention, and others not. Each time it happens I, and so many Black folk, are traumatized and again reminded what we really mean to this country. And here we are again; George Floyd, another Black man whose life has been taken unnecessarily. Unfortunately if history is any indication, the current and wide spread cries and protests for change will soon fade, and we will all get back to “normal” until this happens again. Each and every time my fear increases, and my frustration intensifies because there is nothing I can directly do to halt this widespread attack on Black people.
As long as I can ever remember, I was told by my parents and others that I could be and could do anything as long as I put my mind to it. During this time I strove to excel academically, get involved in my community, and become the best Ivan I could be. As time moved on, I learned about myself, became stronger, and achieved so much as a result. For example, I became part of the elite –achieving what only 2% of the US population accomplishes--a Ph.D. Still, I continued to challenge myself, and became a college president just two years ago.
Although some may think I have “arrived” I failed to mention the double-sided narrative that I had to navigate during all of this time of growth and achievement. On one hand, my parents, family and supporters reminded me that I could reach my goals. On the other hand, the messages the world provided were less than encouraging. I remember being confused in 1992 when three white police officers were acquitted after beating Rodney King, despite video. I was angered when Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, and so many others were killed. I was perplexed when Colin Kaepernick sparked wide-spread concern and lost his NFL career, because of peaceful protest. My feelings of anger, frustration and despair have continued to rise as many Black folk around this country have been harassed and killed many times for things that are considered American freedoms. I mean simple things, like jogging, walking down the street after buying candy from a store, bird watching, or sitting on the couch at home eating ice cream. And to think that much of this harassment and murder has been by police officers; people who are supposed to protect and serve. All of this continues to remind me that accomplishments and education do not protect my life and body as a Black man, and that at any time I can be considered disposable.
What complicates this even more for me is that while I’m concerned every time I see a police car behind me, at the same time I also have the opportunity to serve as a college president. I’m able to lead an institution that has adopted equity as a value and has done some amazing work in the equity, diversity, and inclusion space. An institution that I am proud to be a part of.
Despite my tremendous pride, I simultaneously have to contend with the fact that even at our own institution there have been things that have occurred that has created an unwelcoming environment for some Black students, faculty and staff. I mean, I am the president of the college and there are multiple times when I have walked away from a meeting or interaction with the feeling that the way I was treated would not have happened had I not been Black; this happened again just last week. So this issue regarding the treatment of Black people also hits right here at home, at our college. Yes, Black folk are not being killed on our campuses, but I wonder have we always provided an environment for them that has supported, and not killed their dreams, goals and aspirations.
Although my frustration is real, I remain hopeful that things will get better. But needed change will only happen when we each take action. Each of us has the power to bring about the needed change to better our country, including truly recognizing and showing through actions that Black lives do matter! So, today I challenge each and every one of us to critically examine our own preconceived notions, and biases (both conscious and unconscious), and first work to correct the things that sometimes cause us to treat others in a way we would not want to be treated. No one, nor group, deserves to be treated unjustly! I challenge us all to use our voices and vote. Our voices are not just important for the presidential race, but sometimes even more important at the state, regional and local level. True change will not occur until we elect officials at all levels of government who will challenge and change the systemic racism that unfortunately is woven into the fabric of the United States. I challenge our white colleagues to not attempt to sympathize, but to be true allies by challenging our varying forms of racism and discrimination, and by holding each other accountable when you witness instances of someone not upholding our institutional value of equity. I also challenge you do to so in a way that does not increase the invisible work of our Black colleagues, or causes more unintended harm.
Tacoma Community College has been a pillar of this community for 55 years. This college has supported this community through the years in so many ways. Now it is our time to come together to use our collective minds and voices to be more active participants in fighting against the injustices of Black people.
I do have hope that all of the injustices that this current environment is exposing will finally result in the change that I, and so many of you, want and desperately need. We all have the power to change ourselves, and to create meaningful change in this college, our homes, communities and nation.
So, don’t be surprised when I use the power of my voice, and the power of my position to ensure that this college is engaged in meaningful action. I may not be able to directly halt the widespread attack on Black people, but am able to lead and push meaningful change here at TCC.
My question to you is, what will you do with your power?
Statement of Commitment to Black Lives Matter and the Black Community
by the TCC Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees of Tacoma Community College stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the Black community. We are horrified by the many Black people killed by police, yet heartened by the response of people in the US and around the world who are protesting and taking action against police brutality, systemic racism, and racial violence.
TCC serves a diverse student body, faculty and staff. Diversity, equity and inclusion are core values for the college. “Advancing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” is the first theme of our strategic plan. We are committed to advocate against and eliminate systemic racism wherever we find it. We pledge to intensify our efforts to removing racial inequities, bias in our systems and barriers to equitable access. We know we have work to do. Black students do not complete or transfer at the same rates as white students. Black faculty and staff don’t feel as welcome on campus as their peers. The racial composition of our faculty and staff is not representative of the student body.
Therefore, the Board of Trustees of Tacoma Community College reaffirms our commitment to eliminating systemic racism, and to standing with Black students, faculty, staff, and the Black community. Specifically, we commit to the following actions:
- Actively listen to Black students, faculty, and staff
- Take action to address their concerns and recommendations
- Review systems, policies, and procedures to root out systemic barriers and biases
- Provide professional development that will increase cultural competence and eliminate racism, bias and other forms of discrimination
- Hire racially diverse faculty and staff
- As a governing board, actively monitor progress
We further commit to removing systemic barriers for Black students across the state by working with the community college system, K-12 schools, government, business, and community-based organizations. Collectively, we will work to provide equity-focused policies and programs in support of Black students, from recruitment to enrollment, retention, completion, and transition to further education or employment.
We pledge to create meaningful change for the college, the community, and the nation.