Henry S. Webber, executive 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.