July 8, 2016
Dear Mizzou Ed colleagues and students,
This is a challenging message to write without crying and I have to admit I’m failing. There are so many levels of emotions that I’m experiencing as I interact with students and colleagues on campus and via social media. I know many of you are feeling sad and helpless about the continued violence happening across our country. Some have conveyed to me that they don’t think anything can be done to overcome the realities in our country.
I certainly don’t have the answers; however, I can offer to listen (or just sit with) if you want to join me in The Bridge today at 3:00 PM in 220 Townsend Hall.
Most importantly, please take care of yourselves and seek outside help if you feel overwhelmed. I’m certainly not a professional so if you need someone to talk to, you can call the MU Counseling Center at 573-882-6601 or Behavioral Health at 573-882-1483.
Below I include what was posted on The Bridge’s Facebook Page as well as the text that was sent to the Hickman Community from Principal Eric Johnson. Eric’s words remind us of the children in this community that we may encounter and challenges me to consider how I will interact with and support them. I’m always impressed by Eric’s wisdom.
Posted on The Bridge’s Facebook Page:
Many people are feeling a range of negative emotions; hopelessness, sorrow, confusion, anger, frustration, disappointment, helplessness and more. Although you may want to rid yourself of these emotions, they are signs of care…signs of empathy. Accept them as part of your human experience. Then, give yourself time to process and determine how you want things to be different. Write it down. Then, determine what you can do to contribute to that difference.
Written by one of our amazing alums, Eric Johnson Principal of Hickman High School, to the Hickman Community:
This week has been emotion stirring and heart-breaking for our nation. For the past three days, media outlets and social media platforms have been inundated with coverage of the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and now six Dallas Texas officers (with many others wounded).
As each day passes, I’ve thought more and more about our kids (my own two-year-old daughter, as well as your children, whom you entrust to me each school year). Love doesn’t take summer vacation, and I want you to know that although school is not in session, Hickman educators are still thinking about the well-being of our students. If you or your child needs to contact me, please email or obtain my cell number by contacting the school. I’m sure your child has grappled with their own thoughts about what has occurred this week in some form or fashion. I can’t imagine that the task has been easy. As a well-adjusted, highly reflective adult, I’ve struggled immensely as I’ve tried to reconcile my own feelings about what I’ve witnessed, what it means for our kids, and what role I can play to build up a nation that seems to currently be in a collective fit of pain and agony. Again, if you or your child needs support do not hesitate to contact Hickman administrators.
Please know that my goal is not to stand on a political platform or use my position to impose thoughts on anyone. I do feel, however, that it’s important to address national issues squarely and unequivocally. If that is not the role of the school system, I do not know how else we do our part to build and mold strong citizens. Divided lines and debate have accompanied the deaths of Sterling, Castile, and our Dallas, TX officers at a time when unity, compassion, and understanding are what are most needed. We cannot deny that there are issues surrounding and central to the loss of these lives that need to be addressed. But as we develop a productive way of addressing them, we have to understand that the incidents we’re grieving and/or debating are symptoms (or remnants) of deeper issues in America. They’re an outgrowth of unresolved or vaguely addressed issues of race; narrow-sighted ideas about the role of law enforcement officers and people’s oversimplification of the very difficult job they perform; and the most damaging, they are an outgrowth of people’s tendency to paint entire groups (whether by race, religion, or profession) with a single brushstroke of unreflective and unfair generality.
The feelings of otherness of citizens who perceive their experience as such should be validated, not debated. The law enforcement officers who have taken an oath to serve— and do so proudly, as they face daily risks— should be made to feel appreciated, not debilitated. There are no sides, only work that needs to be done. The death of any of our brothers and sisters of the human race— white, black, and blue—is a tremendous, hurtful loss.
My heart is with you and your children, and our nation will continue to be called out in my prayers