President’s Message for Jan. 7, 2021: We are Doing the Work of Democracy
Dear South Community,
Insurrection. This is what many national and international headlines read about what happened yesterday in our nation’s capitol. I am sure you all have seen or are following the developments of what occurred — a day that the democratic process was tested and upheld again in Georgia, a day that the democratic process that has played out for 200+ years in Washington D.C. was pushed to the brink.
While there is no doubt a broad spectrum of reactions from members in our own South community to yesterday’s violence, this is not a surprise or a shock for many of us. Some might say they fully saw it coming, some had a sense it could come to something like this, and still others are stunned that it actually happened. But, we are all dismayed and unsettled by these violent actions in what is supposed to be one of the most secure and protected symbolic spaces of our country, and in reaction to the very process--the election of president--that is a cornerstone of our democracy.
As a community striving to become anti-racist (we are not there yet) and which holds our racial diversity and the concept of racial equity in high regard, we must also take notice of the disparity and inequity in law enforcement response, especially when compared to recent response in Washington, D.C. to Black Lives Matter and civil rights protesters over the summer. In these moments we can see clearly the vast progress still to be made as a country and culture.
While this might not feel directly relevant to your everyday work or studies, attacks on democracy do impact our efforts in education. Community colleges are a uniquely American concept, borne in the 1890s of the concepts of democracy, to expand access to higher education beyond the elite and wealthy class. The community college has evolved into what we now embrace, where each person—regardless of wealth and social class or racial identity—can pursue higher learning and educational self-fulfillment at an open access college. And like American Democracy, it has been remade and improved in the centuries and decades since its inception.
Just as we see today how much more work we must do to ensure America lives out its democratic ideals, we continue on our path to realize the ideals of the community college: To facilitate our students’ education and elevation so that you can more fully engage in this fragile democracy which takes work to uphold and improve. That is why we are here.
And so, for everyone in our community, however you are left feeling or reacting to yesterday’s events, please know that your work as students, faculty and staff here at South is critical to building the country that we all deserve.
Dr. Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap
President, South Seattle College