It is not sufficient for us, as a consulting company that believes deeply in the principles and values of higher learning and liberal education, to simply share in the shock and dismay that so many Americans feel about the actions, words, and events that disrupted Charlottesville and the University of Virginia this past weekend. We work closely with colleges, universities, and the administrators, faculty, and staff whose teaching, scholarship, and programs and services engage and educate students every day. Three of the K&A staff took degrees from UVA; one served there, on the faculty and as an administrator in student affairs; we have friends, colleagues, and family at UVA and in Charlottesville — one of them a distinguished leader in the city’s African-American community, who probably never expected to see the despicable, disgusting spectacle of white men and women in sheets carrying torches in 2017. The terror, violence, and hatred of the weekend hit home in a powerful way. Now we #standwithCharlottesville.
All of us in K&A recoiled from the sights and sounds of white supremacists shouting and chanting racist, misogynist, homophobic, and anti-semitic words in and after their torchlit invasion of the University’s Grounds. Now we are grieving and heartbroken about the murder — that is what it was — of one young woman and the serious physical and psychological injuries sustained by far too many others in the neo-Nazi terrorist attack in downtown Charlottesville, as well as the deaths of two state troopers in a helicopter crash near the city. We will not abide any of it.
We are grateful for the courage of groups of UVA students who resisted and the strong statements made by University leaders and faculty, Charlottesville’s mayor and police chief, and Virginia’s governor. But gratitude and heartbreak — including our own — are not enough. Martin Luther King’s words resonate today: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” We learned in the 1980’s, fighting for people with HIV/AIDS, that “silence = death.” Now, in 2017 and beyond, silence = more death: the death of the most cherished and humane values of this nation of immigrants; the end of the dream of social and educational equity; the erasure of progress in our prolonged struggle to embrace the full diversity of human beings and their talents; and, indeed, the demise of liberal education itself, and a rejection of the gifts of higher learning.
So K&A will not be silent. We condemn and repudiate the evil that is white nationalism and its expressions in the words and actions of neo-Nazis and the KKK. We accept and will be accountable for the obligations of our privilege. We celebrate higher learning, liberal education, and the ways in which colleges and universities enrich culture, society, and the world. K&A will not be complacent. We will use every resource and tool that our ideas, writing, presentations, consulting and executive search services, and participation in the work of national organizations offer to say, clearly, loudly, and often: Keeling & Associates stands for justice, equity, community, and our shared humanity.
**Featured image credit: Star Tribune