There's still hope for inclusion
By James Jackson - Guest Commentary
The student council missed an opportunity to show empathy and compassion to African- American students.
Today, as a conscious black man, called into a role of both leadership and representation as a servant leader, it is my duty to use my voice to advocate for the marginalized, oppressed and underrepresented.
To give voice to those whose voices are not being heard I decided to run for ASHC President. I ran and was elected on that platform.
Knowing that I would be a member of the Commencement Committee, I saw an opportunity to live up to my campaign promise to fight for equity and inclusion.
There are sad truths that are associated with the national anthem that do not align with either my personal values or the values of our college as represented in our Cultural Diversity Policy.
The song was written by a racist, slave-owning, anti-abolitionist in a spirit that reflects those values. Unsung verses of the song call for the murder of black people.
This song, while still our national anthem does not represent, respect and honor people of color, especially black people. For us, hearing the song is painful; it is a symbol of the oppression of African-Americans as they were bound in slavery and it is a current reminder of the institutionalized racism and internalized oppression that we feel every day of our lives.
We said "yes we understand for you the national anthem is a symbol of patriotism and pride. But for us it is a symbol of oppression, racism and exclusion."
When the vote was called and those who supported the anthem cheered, it was a sad day for democracy and for our council. For people to cheer after their fellow students bared their hearts and souls, showed a lack of empathy and compassion.
For us to tell the student council about our pain in hearing the national anthem, and still be denied, illustrates the failure of our democracy to uphold the values of Highline's Diversity policy.
I am duty-bound to deliver the ASHC Student Council's recommendation to the Commencement Committee to uphold the tradition of singing the national anthem at our 2017 graduation celebration. Yet, as an individual, I continue to protest.
As a black man and community member with a passion for social justice that was nurtured here at Highline, it is my moral and personal obligation to uphold justice and recommend that the national anthem be taken out of our graduation ceremony.
The national anthem initiative is a moral issue, it's not about disrespect to our veterans or our country. We love the men and women who have sacrificed so much for what they believe in.
No this is not about them. This is about choosing human dignity over a song.
Right now, I am feeling proud and hopeful. The Commencement Committee has my recommendation to remove the national anthem from Highline's graduation ceremony in one hand AND in the other, they have my own student government's council decision to keep it.
This is the committee's opportunity to eradicate oppressive and racist symbolism, which will open the door for unity and peace. They can still extend an olive branch that says we recognize and acknowledge the African American experience in this country.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
After four months of work on this issue, I know we can still work together to make things better. Our Highline College pledge made in our Cultural Diversity Policy is to be "committed to the elimination" of systems of oppression that plague our society.
It is a progressive statement by a progressive college that says we are committed to making our campus a safe and inclusive space for us all.