Message to the Skidmore community
December 11, 2014
To the Skidmore Community:
As we near the end of the semester, I know that many of you, particularly our faculty
and students, are focused on completing your classwork in anticipation of the winter
break. This is, indeed, where your attention should be, but our work does not exist
in a vacuum, and that is why I write to address the recent and deeply disturbing events
in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, and elsewhere.
Many have asked whether the young black men who were involved in those events—Michael
Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice—would have been killed if they were white and whether
the police officers should have found non-lethal ways to handle those incidents.
We, of course, have no way to answer these questions. The frequency, however, of incidents
that tragically result in the deaths of black men at the hands of police officers
force us to ask a larger question: Do we in effect have two criminal justice systems
that operate in very different ways, one for white citizens and another for citizens
Even if one does not believe that this perception accurately or fully reflects the
complex underlying reality, the fact that so many of our fellow citizens, particularly
from the many communities of color across our nation, do believe it is corrosive to
the civic unity that is essential to any democracy.
In short, this is not just an issue for black Americans. It is and must be a concern
for all Americans. It must be a concern for the members of law enforcement who truly
do wish to serve and protect every member of our communities, for the politicians
who are elected to lead those communities, and for the community organizers, clergy,
social activists, and so many others who work daily to erase the scourge of racism
from our country.
The very personal and local nature of these concerns has been made clear by the recent
demonstrations on our own campus, and I want to applaud the efforts of those involved
to make the point that black lives decidedly do matter and that we, as a nation, can
no longer turn a blind eye to what has sadly become a tragedy of disturbing proportions.
Struggling with issues of this breadth and complexity is exactly what places like
Skidmore should be doing. Moreover, we want our students to engage with their studies,
not just in an intellectual sense but also in a personal and moral way—to see the
world as an arena for action in which they ultimately must be engaged as well.
As citizens of an increasingly multicultural and multiethnic society and world, our
students must understand the dynamics that have structured—and continue to structure—interactions
among populations, especially when those dynamics reflect differentials of political,
economic, or social power.
And as informed, responsible citizens of a democracy, Skidmore students will share
responsibility for the shape of our society—especially in its political life.
At a time of year that should be devoted to joy and celebration, let us acknowledge,
honor, and share the pain that too many people in our country are experiencing as
the result of racial and other factors that continue to divide our nation. Recognizing
that, more than ever, we are all in this together, let us also recommit ourselves
to the great American project of creating a nation that truly offers liberty and justice
Philip A. Glotzbach