President of HBCU Morehouse College John S. Wilson Jr. spoke with The Chronicle about his essay to students. Some highlights of the interview are below.
If he thinks that as an HBCU president he has a responsibility to speak out:
“I absolutely feel an added responsibility because the Morehouse brand and the Morehouse tradition have us engaged with the most critical issues in the nation and in the world. And we obviously have a tradition in improving American society.
There’s little question that the nation and the world want to hear from Morehouse. I tend to have my hand on the pulse of what’s happening now.
The other reason why I felt a sense of duty and devotion about this is because, for the first time since I can remember at least, there was an extremely upsetting response. That response in Dallas was strikingly at odds with the nonviolent tradition at Morehouse College. Obviously our most famous graduate was Martin Luther King Jr., who was about peace and justice. And that’s why in my article I quoted Dr. King on that very point.
On the other hand, anger about Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights is natural. It’s very logical. It’s very appropriate. But as a Morehouse man, it’s what you do with your outrage that counts the most, and we encourage our men to follow the tradition: Register it constructively, and then get back to the business of making yourself a better man and a better force of good.”
If “the talk” is necessary or not:
“There’s always an active engagement of Morehouse students in what’s going on today politically, socially, economically. Activism by Morehouse students is a norm. We are going to engage on this institutionally when they return.
We, I guess for almost 150 years, have done an institutional version of “the talk.” That is to say, we have educated our men about the best ways to productively and safely negotiate this world — not just “the talk” as it relates to the police.
We kind of agree with the Black Lives Matter movement that “the talk” should not be necessary. It should not even be possible that your life should be in danger in an encounter with a policeman in America that is routine, like a traffic stop.
A disproportionate number of African-American men lose their lives in encounters with the police. That is in fact outrageous. What we saw last week were two particularly outrageous examples of that.
But here’s where we go with that outrage at Morehouse. Whether or not there are hateful and homicidal policemen in America, we still want our young men to conduct themselves in all situations in a respectful, dignified, and courteous way.”
Wilson also discussed police-community relations, what else he hopes his students to do, gun control, and more. Head over to The Chronicle to read the full interview.