Updated: June 3 at 10:30 p.m.
Throughout the history of our country, racism has been a common theme. Some may deny that it still exists today. Based upon the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, it is an issue that our country must rapidly address.
Messiah College sent out a notice to students and employees informing them of the College’s response to these incidents.
President Kim Phipps said “we are a Christian education community that cares and we want to make a difference. We know that as Christians we are to call out injustice and work for justice. That’s part of our calling.”
“What a statement like this does, coming from the president, is that it signals to the people in our community,” Todd Allen, Provost for Diversity Affairs, said. “It is a reminder of what we stand for, an identification of what our values are and it is a call and a challenge to live out those values.”
Reconciliation is the topic they chose to focus on as this is one of the three desired outcomes of a Messiah education.
“It requires truth telling, honesty, lament, apology and forgiveness,” Allen said. “Reconciliation is a process.”
“It is really being able to identify where we fall short in terms of reconciliation and take concrete action to work toward that,” Phipps said.
The fact that we are unable to be together in person because of COVID-19 has certainly caused more strain. In the released statement, Messiah ensured that in the fall, there will be dialogue about these issues and how to better accommodate students of color.
“People are talking,” Allen said. “There is always hope and opportunity when people are talking.”
While this brings Allen hope, he also is a realist.
“My fear is that some of us might learn in this moment, but some of us, the quicker we can get back to ‘normal’ we will. Until the next one.”
The statement by Messiah deduced that creating laws, policies and protocols is a way to address and create accountability for the recent murders. On top of this, Allen wanted to make sure we knew that we are accountable for each other.
“People literally have to put themselves in the way of policies and practices that are crippling and isolating to others.”
As a community, Messiah has been a forerunner in diversity and inclusivity. This is in part to Christianity driving the school, as well as the initiative of President Kim Phipps. Phipps believes that even as a small school, Messiah can reach people nationwide as it has done previously.
“The other way a small Christian college can have an impact,” Phipps said, “ is through the scholarship in writing.”
Students and employees have taken to various platforms to voice their opinions, from op-eds to social media to blogs. Phipps approves of her community’s freedom fighting capabilities.
“There is a place for protest, done safely, and for sharing in that way.”
The bare-bones result that needs to come out of all of this is change and accountability for us all. We have lost too many of our brothers and sisters to hate and prejudice. Messiah and many others were compelled to speak out with statements that had to be said, regardless of agreement.
“What I hope people take away from the statement is that we are doubling down on who we are and who we are committed to be,” Allen said. “And that we are calling out ourselves as well as our community to know better, to do better and to be better, not because it is the political thing to do, not because it is the popular thing to do, but because it is the thing that Christ has called and equipped us to do.”