Message from the President: Choose a Side

Dear Campus Community,

I am writing to all of you today to once again confront a repugnant racist attack on one of our students. I condemn that attack in the strongest and loudest possible terms. This morning, the university was notified of racist graffiti and vandalism aimed at one of our student athletes and his roommate at the Eagle Point apartments.

These acts of violence against our students bring tears to my eyes for the damage they do to the victims, their families, and friends. I cannot fully understand the emotional, mental, and spiritual toll that these events must take. To try to imagine it hurts my soul.

I am so tired of writing that hate has no place on our campus or in our community – only to have that message challenged by disgusting actions like this. Sadly, hate does have some toehold on our campus and in our community. Writing that is painful to me and I hope that it is to you as well. It should be painful. It must be painful. If we become inured to the pain then that toehold has the opportunity to expand.

My heart goes out to the victims of this hateful crime and everyone who is affected by racism and hatred every day. I wish I had more to offer right now than words on a page. I wish that I could tell them, along with you, that this is the last time that I will have to write a message like this. I wish that I had the ability to provide much more comfort than I am able. 

As I send this to you, university flags are being lowered to half-staff to remember the victims of the anti-Asian murders in Atlanta where six women of Asian descent were senselessly shot in a horrific crime of hate. The backdrop to this message is a year of increasing violence against racial and ethnic minorities nationwide. It is a backdrop of growing normalization of white supremacy and white nationalism in our national culture. It is knowing that it is has been only 10 months since the murder of George Floyd. It is knowing that today is six days past the grim anniversary of the killing of Breonna Taylor in her bed. It is the backdrop of years and generations of violence against black and brown people in the United States.

As angry as I am and as much pain as I feel for the victims, I want to say this to everyone: Choose a side. There is no middle ground. There is no room for equivocation or justification. Six women were not killed yesterday because someone was having a bad day or because he was a self-declared sex addict. They were killed because of who they are, Asian-Americans. The latest attack in our community against one of our students is not because someone had too much to drink or because they made a mistake. This attack was on someone because they are African-American, period. It was meant to dehumanize and degrade one of our own. I refuse to agree to that as acceptable. To choose that side is to choose to be outside of the core values of EWU, to be outside of what our country must become, and to be on the wrong side of history.

Someone knows who did this. That someone right now has no choice but to choose a side and that choice is right now. Choosing silence in this moment is choosing the side of the evil, hatred, racism, and violence that this attack represents. There is nothing else to be said except apologetics, there is no principled argument to be made on the other side. I urge anyone who has any knowledge of this despicable act to contact the Cheney police department, the EWU police department, or a trusted friend or advisor to help you share what you know.

My most fervent wish is that the victims somehow find some healing and some peace. That is my number one concern. But a close second is that the individuals responsible for this shameful and deplorable act are found and are dealt with to the fullest extent allowed by law or university policy. I cannot any longer say that this type of hate has no place on our campus or our community–because, as further evidenced by these recent events, it is here–but I can state absolutely that it shouldn’t have any place here. I welcome everyone who also believes that to work with me to eradicate any safe haven for the ideas of hate in our community.

David May
Interim President
Eastern Washington University

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