The academic year has begun or is very close for many student affairs professionals across the nation and the globe. Finalizing event planning details, making sure catering orders are placed and remembering to wear the right t-shirt, on the right day, at the right event, are all common concerns for this exciting time of year. The atmosphere on campus during welcome week is filled with enthusiasm and energy. And while within the context of the student affairs experience, this time of year is one of celebration and excitement, it’s also one of optimism and happiness. Still, my mind won’t allow me to stop thinking about the tragedies that are taking place in many communities across this country. It has taken me a while to be able to put my feelings of helplessness and distraught into words, regarding what seems to be an ongoing trend of men of color, losing their lives by the hand of law enforcement officials.
The tragedy that occurred in Ferguson with Michael Brown, in New York with Eric Garner and in Sanford a few years ago with Trayvon Martin concern me. They concern me not just because I am a black male, who is the father of two black boys. They concern me not just because I can recall my own accounts of being racially profiled by police and others. They concern me not just because I have relatives who are living in communities that are rampant with poverty, injustice and unfortunate circumstances. No, these tragedies and acts of injustice concern me, for the same reason that it should concern other student affairs and higher education professionals, and for that matter, every other member of our communities.
The loss of young black male life, is not just a lost for their families, it’s not just a loss for the black community. No, in totality, the loss of black male life is a lost for our communities of higher education. For every black male life that is lost, that is one less black male that you or I, have the privilege to mentor and to nurture on our campus. One less life that we can impact. One less high school diploma, two-year degree, four year degree, master’s degree or doctorate degree granted. One less Truman or Rhodes Scholar. One less student leader, SGA president or homecoming King. One less campus ambassador and board of trustee representative. The bottom line is that what has taken place in these communities has or at some point will impact our lives as educators. Despite what has been portrayed to us in the media, Trayvon Martin was a prospective college student and Michael Brown was too.
I believe that the call of student affairs educators is to be educated, to be concerned and to be engaged in dialogue around the issues not only on our campuses but also within the communities and the society in which we reside. As educators, we should be committed to: increasing access for students, creating safe and inclusive environments, promoting equity and social justice. However, these issues extend beyond our campuses and impact our campuses from the outside in, whether we want to admit it or not. So, while we may not live in Ferguson, Missouri or Sanford, Florida, I believe we still have an obligation to get involved in the conversation. The loss of life of black males and of any young person’s life, strips our communities of untapped knowledge, potential solutions to the world’s most challenging issues and future leaders of our country. And I am not okay with that and you shouldn’t be either.