The following message from Interim President Stephen C. Osborne ’73 regarding Black History Month was sent to the campus community on Feb. 1, 2019:
Dear Campus Community:
Today begins Black History Month. Each year, we take the month of February to celebrate and commemorate the many contributions African-Americans have made to America – in business, music, agriculture, fashion, groundbreaking research and discoveries, and so many other aspects of our society. During this month, we are, in the words of former President Gerald Ford, urged to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
So often in America we shy away from talking about race or we try to steer the conversation toward the idea that we have overcome and that there is no need to discuss race because it only makes things worse and people more divided. I strongly disagree. We must remember that we’re only 50 plus years removed from the Civil Rights movement. More important, it’s vital to acknowledge that just because we are more tolerant and accepting today does not mean hate crimes have stopped and racial injustice has ended.
As someone who came of age in the 1960s, I do believe we have made significant progress when it comes to race relations in this country and that we are a more accepting and loving country. Yes, we cannot take for granted how far we’ve come. Yes, there is still more work to be done. To make more progress in this country means we have to be willing to work together, to have the tough conversations. We have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. It’s in this space of vulnerability where we are willing to listen to and learn from each other that we’ll realize we have more in common than we thought. It’s in this space where we’ll begin to heal the old wounds of this country and continue to make the necessary changes to bring about more equality, more inclusion, and more acceptance.
This will be hard work. But it can be accomplished. It starts with telling a fuller story of this country and accepting undeniable truths. Here at the College, it means continuing work on our diversity and inclusion efforts so that all feel welcome and all are proud to call the College of Charleston their university.
Writing this message reminds me of my favorite professor when I was a student at the College, Bill Moore of the political science department. Professor Moore conducted research on hate groups, and I was fortunate enough to study this subject with him as a student. Through his teachings, we learned firsthand how hate spreads and what motivates some people to subject other groups to hurtful rhetoric and attacks. Professor Moore was a beloved faculty-scholar at the College and passed away in 2009. I’ve always tried to remember his example and live by it. I am so appreciative to our faculty and staff, who like Bill Moore, work hard to teach our students respect for the individual and the power of diversity.
I’ll continue to do my part to help make the College a more diverse and inclusive university, and I hope you will join me. Happy Black History Month, Cougars!
Stephen C. Osborne ’73
Interim President, College of Charleston