Reflections on Ferguson

webberHenry S. Webberexecutive vice chancellor for administration, Washington University

Michael Brown’s death and the subsequent events are a tragedy for a person and a family, a powerful reminder of how far we have to go to achieve racial justice in this country, and a step backward for St. Louis and America. As one of the many who loves St. Louis, it is very painful.

My great fear is that we won’t use this tragedy to make progress on changing what must be changed. Much is right about St. Louis. We are a caring, generous, culturally rich region that is in many ways a great place to live. But we are not very diverse. Our boardrooms, police forces, communities and religious institutions are, more often than not, single-race. And our corridors of power and privilege are overwhelmingly white. While this is a nationwide problem, professional life in Chicago, Washington or New York is much more diverse than professional life in St. Louis.

The question is what to do. St. Louis needs many things. We need better schools and new economic opportunities for those who have been left behind. We need improved relationships between police and minority communities. All of these will take time to achieve and require the action of many. We each must contribute to these efforts. But there are things we can do tomorrow and do personally. It is time to insist that our leadership circles become diverse, that our neighborhoods become welcoming to all and that our organizations reflect the diverse society that we aspire to be. My record on none of these goals is perfect. I hope that the events of recent days will help me to do better.

  • Concerned WUster

    I quote: “It is time to insist that our leadership circles become diverse, that our neighborhoods become welcoming to all and that our organizations reflect the diverse society that we aspire to be.” However, take a look at: http://boardoftrustees.wustl.edu/Pages/current-trustees.aspx. For how long has Wash U. exposed the “diversity” value? How is this being represented in the Wash. U leadership? How much time is enough time to see the “diverse [leadership] we aspire to be?” I would recommend carefully listening to the words of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEQAie8ABLE

  • John Reynolds

    Please please please tell me what is tragic about Michael Brown’s death?? He was a drug-abusing menace to his own community. Had he lived, he would be facing years in prison. This case is the wrong battleground for a discussion on race relations. It has absolutely nothing to do with race. It didn’t matter if he was black, brown, or alien green, you get high, commit a felony, then attack a police officer, guess what…you die! The only tragedy in this case is that the St. Louis community has not honored a very brave young police officer who nearly lost his life protecting the good people of Ferguson.