President's Statement on Brown Shooting
Last Friday I wrote to our campus community, expressing my deep concern about the shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American youth, by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Today, as our residential students arrive on campus for the start of the new academic year, I find myself filled with conflicting emotions. For the last week, my spirits have been lifted by encounters with new and returning students who are filled with hope and promise as they anticipate the learning and growth that lies ahead. Like many of you, my Facebook feed has been filled with photos of smiling children photographed by their parents as they head off for the first day of school. It is a season of possibility.
At the same time, I am profoundly saddened as I reflect on the lost potential of Michael Brown and an overwhelming number of African-American youth who are killed or imprisoned in our country. The vast majority of those youth have names, faces, families and dreams that go largely unknown in our public consciousness. The ever present reality of violence and imprisonment make this is a season of grief and disappointment for many of our brothers and sisters.
Just a few hours after I wrote to our students, faculty and staff last Friday, I had the honor to be present for a spoken word event that marked the start of Kinfolk Weekend, a welcoming event organized by our Pan African Student Association (PASA). There, I was reminded of the richness of the African-American tradition – one that has been disproportionately influenced by systematic racism, oppression, and violence, including the loss of so many young people like Michael Brown. All of us have benefited spiritually from the wisdom of an African-American tradition that has responded to such widespread suffering with hope and perseverance. Yet we also participate in a society in which that suffering persists in so many insidious forms.
The spiritual, emotional, and ethical burdens of last month’s events do not fall solely upon the people of Ferguson, Missouri; nor do they fall solely upon African-Americans. They are for all of us to carry together. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That Gospel truth surely extends to our leafy campus tucked against the Southern California foothills.
Claremont School of Theology is attempting to do its part in responding to the physical, emotional, and spiritual violence caused by racism. We are committed to training our students to become effective change-agents for love, inclusion, and equality in their respective communities. To that end, we are also committed to creating a truly multicultural community here on this campus so that our learning environment accurately reflects the world we intend to serve.
We have work to do in order to bring those intentions to full fruition. As President, I am prepared to do whatever I can in order for CST to reach its potential. I am encouraged in that effort to know that there are others on this campus who are ready and willing to join me. I have already communicated with PASA about ways in which we can better address issues of race, oppression, and violence in our community.
I know that I am not alone in holding these mixed emotions as we begin our journey through the academic year together. For those who are on campus, I invite you to join me in conversation about these issues today in Kresge Chapel at 5:00 following Chapel Service.
For our hybrid students who are not able to join us, please feel free to send your thoughts and concerns to Maria Iannuzzi, Executive Assistant to the President at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alumni/ae are encouraged to reach out to our Director of Alumni/ae Relations Noemi Ortega at email@example.com.
Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan
Claremont School of Theology
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