I embrace the responsibility I have as a leader to help our community make sense of the world outside of Champlain College and to reflect on events that transpire. Yet it disturbs and saddens me when events rooted in hatred and division occur with disturbing frequency. Events that defy explanation. That are utterly discordant with the values we espouse as an institution and individuals. That raise again and again the question of how to make sense of the senseless.

The recent shootings in Atlanta, resulting in the deaths of eight people at three area spas, mark the latest in these events. The details are still unfolding, and it is unclear whether the shootings were racially motivated, targeting people of Asian descent. What is glaringly clear, however, is the focus on ethnicity as it relates to the impact of the shootings, and the fear caused by the escalation of violence against Asian Americans across the country. We stand with Asian Americans and people of Asian descent and condemn the violence and harassment they have experienced. Our thoughts are with the victims, and also with our own students and community members who are most affected by these events.

What is also clear is that racism comes in different forms. There are horrific acts that make headlines, and remind us that, tragically, there are still people who are bent on hurting others based on ethnicity or skin color. And there are other silent and subtle acts — no less damaging, and perhaps more encompassing — that provide evidence that discrimination exists widely among us.

Our actions in trying to address issues of hate should begin with a focus on what we can do to ensure that the root causes of events we’ve experienced in Atlanta and elsewhere do not take hold in our own community. We must continue to ask what we are doing right here at home to foster inclusion and engage across differences. We must continuously reaffirm and clarify what we stand for — equity, inclusion, social justice, respect, empathy — and what we unequivocally will not stand for — discrimination, marginalization, violence, and hatred. We need to hold up and champion these values, be seekers of truth and ambassadors for what is right.

This is the work we have ahead of us and the steps we must take to create the truly inclusive community we aspire to be — a community that is anti-racist, and where we all live, work, and learn together, harmoniously, in celebration of our distinctive differences and perspectives.

Dr. Benjamin Ola. Akande is President of Champlain College. He is a respected economist, scholar educator and global consultant.

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