Delaware State University’s President on Racism’s Enduring Presence

DSU students attend a professional development event on campus./Courtesy of Delaware State University
Words by Tony Allen

This is us… and that is no longer acceptable.

Reacting to Ahmaud Arbery’s murder in Georgia, Dean Francine Edwards of the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences at Delaware State University captures the fear of black parents across America: “This is why I will always have fear in my heart. I have three brown sons.”

Reflecting on George Floyd’s death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, alumnus and entrepreneur Kevin Wright titled his LinkedIn comments, “This Is Us.”

Though the future feels uncertain, it is past time to confront the fact that the most dangerous virus gnawing at America from within remains racism. There are countless stories of oppression leading to false accusations of wrongdoing; disproportionate rates of poverty and incarceration; socioeconomic health disparities; anti-immigrant prejudice; “urban” middle-class flight; police misconduct; corporate glass ceilings; and senseless murder all around.

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Tony Allen, president of Delaware State University./Courtesy of Delaware State University

When racism is systemic, you don’t even need to be racist to reap its benefits or feel its effects. It just is.

And that is no longer acceptable.

We are each, unquestionably, shaped by our individual experiences. Like Dean Edwards, I have brown sons who have received the obligatory “talk” about their conduct in moments of crisis or friction, aware that it doesn’t guarantee their safety. I share direct responsibility for several thousand young black men annually entrusted to DSU, an unparalleled moral duty in a 21st-century where too many of them continue to be identified as dangerous and violent, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

RELATED: What’s Next for Racial Equality in Delaware?

That’s why DSU conducted the first statewide forum on “The Past, Present and Future of Black America.”

Dean Michael Casson of the DSU College of Business moderated a discussion between DSU alums New Castle County Police Col. Vaughn Bond (’91); Matthew Horace, national expert on racism in law enforcement (’85); Dr. Gwen Scott-Jones, psychology chairperson (’96/’99), DSU Police Chief Harry Downes; and students Semaj Hazzard and Corban Weatherspoon (both ’21).

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Weatherspoon captured the significance best: “My grandmother asked me what I’m going to tell my kids what I did to improve things. This is my start.”

Our university counts Freedom Riders among its faculty. We cannot shirk this responsibility.

Still not moved? Let these names marinate for a while:

George Floyd

Ahmaud Arbery

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Amadou Diallo

Manuel Loggins Jr.

Ronald Madison

Kendra James

Sean Bell

Eric Garner

Michael Brown

Alton Sterling

Philando Castile

Ariel Denkins

Gregory Gun

Samuel DuBose

Brendon Glenn

Freddie Gray

Natasha McKenna

Walter Scott

Christian Taylor

Ezell Ford

Akai Gurley

Laquan McDonald

Then recall the resolve of Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison: “I am in earnest. I will not equivocate. I will not excuse. I will not retreat a single inch. And I will be heard.”

Published in the July 2020 issue of Delaware Today magazine.

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