By Dr. Forrest E. Harris, Sr.
President, American Baptist College
The beginning of the 2019 academic year traditionally finds American Baptist College (ABC) excited about new students joining our educational institution and welcoming returning students. However, in place of my usual greeting to ABC students, I found it difficult, yet necessary to speak about the national tragedy of the Texas and Ohio massacres that took place on August 3 & 4. In less than 14 hours, 29 people were killed in two massacres, in two different cities across the U.S.
There have been 254 mass shootings in the U.S. A mass shooting is generally accepted as an incident in which at least four people are shot, data revealed from GVA, which tracks every mass shooting in the country.
At varying degrees of reaction, we all experience levels of emotional disturbance and psychological trauma not knowing exactly what to do about the nation’s epidemic gun violence. It renders us without confidence that any public place in our cities is exempt from this happening again.
We must remain resilient with hope and advocacy, even in the face of such human losses and the lack of moral accountability from government leaders. When President Trump addressed the nation about mass murders, he said “mental illness and hate, not guns” were responsible for the massacres. There is, however, a deeper, unacknowledged complicity for the non-action of government. The mass murders which occurred at Columbine, Parkland, Las Vegas, Dayton and South Carolina have become so frequent in our society. The recent shooting at the Festival in Gilroy, California, occurred despite that state’s efforts to regulate and curb gun violence.
Early investigation into the Texas and Ohio tragedies suggests the actions of both persons— young white males in their twenties—were driven by the nationalist logic and manifestos of white supremacy and racism. This is a moral problem from which, if left unchecked, will implode America with hate and fear. Shared public sentiment is for thorough background checks and gun control laws are necessary to curb gun violence. A significant next step is the need for critical national conversations and education at all levels of American society.
Here at American Baptist College, we believe the key to developing an alternative consciousness for non-violence is to provide the kind of education that produces social justice, equity, advocacy, personal accountability, and moral leadership for the next generation. During the course of this academic year, we will have as many critical conversations as possible. And, we will provide educational support opportunities and relevant counseling to help students, faculty, and staff deal with the social trauma we now face. Our faculty are encouraged to include during class time, the opportunity for students to give voice to their feelings and concerns. As we have done before, we must remain both vigilant and resilient to the creation of a just and nonviolent future