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June 17, 2020
As we’ve watched the last several weeks unfold after George Floyd’s death, the news has often been difficult to watch. His death has struck a deep chord across our country and in our communities. People are justifiably angry about what happened to Mr. Floyd.
I am angry about it.
What we’ve witnessed in graphic detail is that the treatment of communities of color by law enforcement can be starkly different from what many of us, myself included, have been accustomed to throughout our lives. And although George Floyd’s tragic death is the most recent case, we have been watching similar scenarios, rooted in systemic racism, play out for years.
It’s maddening. It’s distressing. And we should all be outraged.
As I’ve watched these events continue to unfold, I think it’s important to speak on behalf of our institution, and to make it clear that at Piedmont Technical College, we stand firmly with the peaceful protesters that are marching all over the country. Among our country’s most important values are the free expression of ideas and the freedom to speak truth to power. So it gives me hope that these courageous individuals are speaking out. My hope is that these protests will give way to reflection on the ways our country still struggles with racism. And, in turn, I hope that reflection will give way to real change.
Here at Piedmont Technical College, we are already engaged in that work every day. Diversity is one of our core values, and I fully expect everyone here to live out those values day to day.
We are living that work through programs like our college-wide Diversity Team and through MODELS Academy—a holistic mentoring program for young African-American men that we funded several years ago and that has grown tremendously. We are living that work through our ongoing efforts to reach out to communities of color about the benefits of higher education, and our ongoing efforts to recruit and retain a diverse faculty and staff. And we are living that work through our daily interactions with our students—through the work that all of our faculty and staff do every day.
There is more work yet to be done.
As an open-admissions institution, Piedmont Technical College was founded on a premise of equal opportunity for all, and we have endeavored to live up to that mission since we opened our doors more than 50 years ago. We have not always been perfect in that work, but we have always, and will always, work to ensure that people from all walks of life are welcome here and that everyone has the resources they need to succeed. The success of the college so far is built on the contributions of men and women from many racial and ethnic backgrounds. I want to recognize the contributions of those employees here, particularly of our African-American colleagues. We would not be where we are today without their work.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen it written that although we’ve been battling the Coronavirus, racism ― the United States’ original virus ― remains undefeated.
At Piedmont, we remain committed to doing our part to defeat that original virus. We condemn racism in all its forms. And we will continue to work on providing an equal playing field, free of discrimination, for all who work and study here at our institution.
Dr. L. Ray Brooks is president of Piedmont Technical College.