My heart is saddened as the world around us is filled with a multitude of unexplainable actions and reactions. The country is not only experiencing a virus pandemic, but it is also experiencing a pandemic of racism. The invisible pandemic (Covid-19) is recent, however, the pandemic of racism has never been invisible, it is overt and long-standing.
My mind reels with the news of the series of senseless and shocking murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Arbery was jogging two miles from his home in Georgia, when he was chased and lynched by two white males. Taylor was killed while asleep in her home as the result of a raid by Louisville Police on the wrong house. Floyd died unable to breathe while he was restrained under the knee of a Minnesota police officer. Only the most recent examples of the disease known as discrimination that still exists in our nation.
These horrific stories have come in addition to the COVID-19 disease that has derailed America; more than 100,000 people have died, more than 300 million of us have stayed in our homes for the past several weeks as a result of “stay-at-home” orders, and more than 40 million people are unemployed because of COVID-19.
We are desperately trying to maintain our own balance while everything around us seems to be spinning out of control. We struggle to make sense of the times in which we find ourselves. We do not have to look far to find someone who’s life has been impacted by the stories unfolding in the news; illness, violence, unemployment, economic hard times, even death. And while unfortunately none of these are new problems, they do seem to be compounded into this moment in time.
Like you, I am searching for answers. And while there are still so many unanswered questions, there are some things I do know.
College of the Desert is an open-door institution that embraces diversity in all forms and the right of all people to have access to quality higher education. The College is committed to continuing our rich tradition of valuing all students and helping them attain their educational goals. We work every day to close the equity gaps that exist for our students. But while that work is commendable, it is not enough.
Education is often seen as an important component to creating social justice. Our faculty knows that they are not only teachers, but mentors and role models. We must ensure that they are equipped with the tools they need and the support they deserve to teach our students and create the leaders of tomorrow, the leaders we will depend on to be part of the solution to the answers we seek. We must foster understanding, acceptance and tolerance in our classrooms and on our campuses so that it flows out into our community and our world.
The data is clear - across our K-12 and community college systems black students, especially black males are continuously disproportionately impacted in education. College of the Desert recently implemented a new program, A2MEND to address some of those issues. The mission of this national program is for educators to utilize scholarly and professional expertise to foster institutional change within the community college system with a focus on the success of African American male students, faculty, staff, and administrators. I will be working with the leadership of our program to find ways to involve their members in meaningful discussions and implementation strategies at our College.
I am committed to ensuring that College of the Desert is a welcoming place for the success of all students. I believe in the words of Thomas Berry, “Diversity is the magic. It is the first manifestation, the first beginning of the differentiation of a thing and of simple identity. The greater the diversity, the greater the perfection.”
Structural racism continues to be rampant in our world and individually and collectively we must recognize and own our responsibility in addressing this truth.
I am committed to speaking up and speaking out. I am committed to doing better and being better. I ask you to join me.
Joel L. Kinnamon, Ed.D.
Superintendent / President