A Message from President Feaver on Racism and Violence

President Feaver discusses the recent wave of protests across the nation
President Feaver discusses the recent wave of protests across the nation

Dear USAO Family,

After watching repeated, unavoidable video images of George Floyd’s last agonizing, dying moments on that pavement, I still find myself increasingly at a loss for words. It is simply unbelievable that in 2020—after all the struggles I have seen throughout my lifetime – that this inexcusable brutality remains a part of what should be a responsible, if not routine, relationship between designated authority and our citizens. In its occurrence, it is impossible not to reflect on the endemic mistreatment of People of Color, African-Americans in particular, that has continued to characterize the entire history of our nation.

It has been truly remarkable to see the explosive response of thousands upon thousands of caring citizens across this country, and kindred spirits in other nations, pouring into the streets to make their voices heard in protest to a malevolent mixture of bigotry and brutality. We must keep uppermost in mind that the very foundations of our form of government rest on the active interest and involvement of its citizens and their right under law to come together in public protest to demand justice for all people and to hold those to whom we have handed the reins of government to account. I am tremendously heartened to see in these crowds people of every race, color and creed, from every generation, gathering in peace and solidarity with the hope of engendering more of it.

As Oklahomans, we must bear the history of our young state, one that drew people of every stripe to a frontier promising opportunities as broad as the rolling plains, but also one that has witnessed some of the most appalling racial violence in American history. As Oklahomans, however, we also know that resilience, tenacity and community are part of the very soil of this state. While it may seem that there are unbridgeable differences between us, I find that what I can do best at times like these is simply listen to the experiences of others who may have never even had the privilege of an attentive or empathetic ear. I can’t help but be reminded of those haunting words of the Black Oklahoman author Ralph Ellison from the Prologue of “Invisible Man:” “I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

It is my fervent hope that the wanton violence, brutality, destruction, vandalism and thievery that have used the protests as an opening to hide human impulses of the worst kind are understood as having no relationship to the causes or righteous essence of these public protests as legitimate expressions of anger and a demand to correct injustice.

It is also my fervent hope that these protests will not fizzle on the shelf as an end in themselves; rather that they prove to be merely the first step in a continuing process for improving American society. Significant social, political and cultural change is difficult. In a Republic it can be frustratingly slow. Irrespective, it is imperative that we continue to use the political mechanisms of our Republic with the guidance of those Constitutional principles we hold dear, to form governing bodies genuinely preoccupied in attending to the security and health of all its human resources. We are grandly fortunate to live in a Republic with a form of government that can be used to change life for the better.

At USAO, we are utterly committed to illuminating the minds of our students, and also ourselves as faculty and staff, so that together we see every single human in all their richness and depth. Our interdisciplinary mission is designed specifically to bring different worlds together through civil discourse, clear and critical thinking, and an intense curiosity in what can be learned from many minds. At this college we refuse to celebrate human diversity without equally honoring the value of inclusivity.

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