Catawba College Statement on Racial Inequity and Intolerable Racism
June 2, 2020
To overcome fear, we must focus our thoughts 'on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. (Philippians 4:8)
Dear Campus Community:
The events of recent days have brought to a nation already beleaguered by illness and distancing of the communities we cherish almost unfathomable acts of hatred and hurt. These events have left so many of us stunned and searching for understanding and a way to go forward that will honor the peace, respect, equality and sense of community we treasure.
As I struggle to help students, alumni and friends sort out all of this, I keep coming back to the role of fear in our lives. COVID-19 has filled our lives with a kind of uncertainty and fear ... fear of losing our good health, fear for our economic well-being, fear for the loss of community and opportunity. We also fear for our friends of Asian and African-American descent. We fear we may lose some of the opportunities and freedoms we so greatly cherish. Fear causes people to react in strange and unpredictable ways. While we must not attribute our current situation totally to COVID-19, the anxieties and stresses surrounding the pandemic have exacerbated. The problems and conditions many of us had wanted to believe had been addressed or, at least tremendous progress made, continue to persist.
As one who watched from the bowels of Salisbury-Rowan Residence Hall the television coverage of our nation's cities burning following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and who had friends at the sit-ins at the Greensboro Woolworth's, I look at today's campus with nearly 37% of the student body comprised of persons identified as minorities and with African-American students holding leadership positions and major roles on athletic teams and other groups on campus and I feel we have made a lot of progress. Recent events remind me and all of us we have not done enough. There still is work to be done. Minds and hearts need to be challenged and changed. We must recommit ourselves to the values of justice and equality and opportunity for all that have come to define the Catawba Experience.
For nearly 170 years, Catawba College has been a place where people have learned those values and our graduates have left this place to work for the realization of those values all over the world. Catawba has and will continue to be a community where diverse people live and work and learn together and, at least most of the time, do so in unity and harmony. We must never falter in our zeal to share these values with others by the way we live our lives.
Institutions like Catawba educate people in the liberal arts and in matters of faith, keys to understanding love, caring, valuing humanity and helping one another. It is incongruous that at a time when these institutions are needed more than ever, we find ourselves experiencing some of the greatest hardships and challenges. I would remind us that historically from a Biblical perspective and from the accounts of our Nation, it has been when we have been most besieged we have emerged strongest. I firmly believe if we recognize the task before us and recommit ourselves to our mission of being a community of faith that recognizes the value of every human being and provides opportunities for each person to develop to the fullest the gifts given by God, we will experience a strong future and good lives for all the members of our world community.
In order for this to happen we must replace that paralyzing and destructive fear so prevalent in our world today with hope. To overcome fear, we must focus our thoughts "on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable" (Philippians 4:8). Doing this will help us get beyond the negativism, the hatred, the greed, the contempt which seeks to hold us captive and gives way to discrimination and hurtful words and actions. With this comes hope. The Catawba community has that hope ... a hope inherent in the faith that brought this college into being and we will use these trying times as a stimulus to sustain a community that continues to work for good as people learn and grow in ways that will make for a better world for all.
I look forward to our community being back together in the fall when we once again can be about the business of learning and be even more deliberate in our efforts to work for a world free from discrimination, racism, and inequality.
Kenneth W. Clapp '70
Senior Vice President & Chaplain of the College