Dear WSU Everett Community,

We are experiencing a very disturbing, yet transformational time in our nation’s history. While we work our way through the fog of the COVID-19 virus, we have observed with horror, yet another incomprehensible act of racism in our African American community. Through the power of technology and social media, we all witnessed George Floyd’s life being extinguished under the pressure of the knee of a law enforcement officer. That incident sparked shock, disbelief, and sadness across the entire nation.

Emotions fused into anger and citizens in more than 100 cities nationwide have demonstrated in the streets every night since Mr. Floyd’s death. The faces of the protesters reflect every age, ethnicity, profession, and community. While we do not condone violence or destruction of property, we understand that the cries emanating from their lips echo a 400-year-old demand that America live up to its ideals of freedom and equality for all.

A new generation has taken up the cause, including many members of our own community. This is your time to speak truth to power. Embrace it with brilliance, civility, and courage. For an example of bravery and heroism you need look no further than 17-year-old Darnella Frazier who recorded the 10-minute video that chronicled George Floyd’s final moments. Her courage to stand tall in the face of a horrible act of violence and to bring the video forward as evidence is nothing short of remarkable. Darnella saw a grave injustice taking place and could not sit idly by. And now, neither can we.

Our younger generation has pulled back the covers of injustice to expose deep-rooted inequities that black and brown people have endured for centuries.  

As an African American man, it is difficult for me to write this letter because it brings back memories of times when I have experienced blatant racism and menacing behavior from law enforcement. But the haunting image of George Floyd lying on the ground with a police officer’s knee heavy on his neck propels me forward. As I mourn his death, I am haunted by the reality that it could happen to me, to one of my family members or even to one of our students. It is time for all of us to help put an end to the ongoing tragedy of police brutality against Black males.

Excessive force by police is not the only thing stopping America from living up to its true ideals. We must implement new policies, programs, and actions to reverse the school to prison pipeline that has resulted in generations of Black men languishing behind bars. We must transform our outdated model of policing to a new model that has a clear focus on community health and safety. Finally, we must aggressively address the economic and health disparities that exist in the Black community and that keep so many from realizing their full potential.  

To do this work we must acknowledge that racism is the fuel that stokes the flames of destruction. Indeed, we must do more than acknowledge it, we must step forward and bring about change. If you have tuned into the news in recent days, you know that the work has already begun. Our younger generation is leading us toward the democratic ideals espoused centuries ago. Let us hear them. Let us support and partner with them. While I mourn the specter of another black man’s death at the hands of law enforcement, I am hopeful that this time we will bring about change. We must.  

Sincerely,

Dr. Paul Pitre,
Chancellor, WSU Everett

 

“Like every younger generation, our kids today see clearly, the hypocrisies and mendacities of our society, and as they grow up they begin to question in a fundamental way some of the lies they have received from society…This often leads to an ardent disappointment, and even anger, about the failures of our society to consistently uphold the democratic and humanitarian values that can be born in youths in this phase of their life…we should understand the expression of this moral outrage as having a profound kind of wisdom, even as we must also help to channel that outrage into a more productive sense of commitment to find a positive way forward.”  Democracy Matters, Cornel West, Ph.D.