Guest column: We must do our part to fix systemic inequities

by Dr. Greg Mosier, KCKCC president

During the last several months, people across America and around the world have lived through unthinkable crises. The coronavirus pandemic has affected millions and killed hundreds of thousands of people and crippled tens of thousands of businesses and economies around the world. This so-called indiscriminate killer has sickened and taken the lives of countless people across all races, ethnicities, demographics and ages. However, this virus has not been so indiscriminate, as people of color, those with weakened health and the elderly have suffered the greatest loss of life. African American and Hispanic workers have also suffered many of the greatest economic injustices and health insecurities when looking at the sheer number of people who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and who have limited access to quality healthcare to receive the care they need.

While the injustices caused by the pandemic are inexcusable, even more inexcusable is that these injustices have existed long before the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic has just emphasized what has existed for decades. In many metro, urban and rural communities across the country, African American communities and communities of color have struggled to live in environments with fewer or reduced high-quality employment, education, social and healthcare opportunities. Unfortunately, the systemic barriers and hurdles that have kept communities down still exist today. This was made ever so clear while trying to educate our youth “virtually” during the pandemic in communities that do not have the technological, financial, parental or family resources to provide education to their children the same way as children in our more affluent communities.

As educational institutions, faculty and staff, government and community leaders, and brothers and sisters of the human race, we must do better! It’s imperative we do better! As an educator, I have long held the belief that we must educate the head, hands and hearts of our students in order to improve our society and the world. We must bridge divides and eliminate the multiple inequities that exist in our systems that continue to create the Haves and Have Nots. We must fix structures and processes that continue to tell many of the youth of our country, the future of our country, that they do not deserve the same opportunities to succeed in life that is available to others.

Like many of you, on May 25th, as I watched the tragic killing of George Floyd unfold before my eyes, I was shocked, dumbfounded and outraged. Mr. Floyd’s senseless death is inexcusable. My heart and prayers go out to the Floyd family, and to the many Americans of color who feel a growing sense of fear, anger, and weariness. I publicly condemn these actions and believe those involved should be prosecuted with the full vigor of the law.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. In recent months, we have witnessed other examples of senseless deaths of men and women of color. Following the death of Mr. Floyd, as people across the country, rightfully angry, came together to put on peaceful protests and demonstrations, tragedy continued to strike our country as rioters, thieves, arsonists and killers took to the streets as well. For nearly two weeks, people who were shocked and outraged by the death of Mr. Floyd continued to be traumatized by these others’ actions. As a country, we must find ways to stop and condemn actions of hate, violence and senseless killings no matter who they are perpetrated on and by whom.

To move forward as a community, we must all work together to fight and stop racism, bigotry, bias and discrimination wherever and however it exists. And we must eliminate structures and processes that create hurdles and roadblocks for underserved populations and people of color. Our work may not be easy and uncomfortable conversations lie ahead. But, by granting each other grace and forgiveness we will individually become stronger as one. Without collectively taking these actions we will continue to travel down the same path we are currently on. We must continue to work to treat people with kindness, respect, love and care for one another as we are all related as brothers and sisters in the human race.

Kansas City Kansas Community College is fully committed to support and value an environment where hate and discrimination has no home, and where students and employees are free and encouraged to speak up and have their concerns heard if an issue should arise. To our valued employees, if you are having difficulty managing issues related to these recent events or any matter, please remember the resources available in KCKCC’s Employee Assistance Program. And to our incredible students, who are so dedicated to attaining your educational and career goals, please contact one of KCKCC’s counselors if you struggle with any of the recent events or other items as you spend your time with us.

I am very proud of the great diversity that exists in our Kansas City Kansas Community College family and the great work each of you do every day to make KCKCC the incredible institution it is today. Our students and alum, faculty and staff, and administration and board of trustees represent the great diversity of our community. And as our community changes, we are committed to change with it to reflect, respect and celebrate the diversity that makes us such a great and dynamic institution.

It is my honor and privilege to serve as president of Kansas City Kansas Community College and it is my promise to each of you that this letter is more than a personal or College statement; it is a call to action. KCKCC will work with dedication to continue to grow and expand our commitment to diversity and inclusion no matter our personal differences. Operating from a position of kindness, respect, civility and personal responsibility, we will continue to make our college and community around us an even better place to work and live.

2020 special legislative session update

Guest column

State Rep. Pam Curtis

by State Rep. Pam Curtis, 32nd District

House Bill 2016 was debated for nearly 5 hours on the House floor Wednesday, the first day of the Kansas Legislature Special Session.

HB 2016 included three main parts, CARES Act Funding, Emergency Declaration Powers and liability immunity, a 57-page bill. I continue to be concerned about process, the lack of transparency and the lack of measures to help or protect workers during this pandemic.

HB 2016 was introduced Wednesday at a House Judiciary Committee meeting at the rail, it was referred directly to the Committee of the Whole. There were no hearings held, and the bill document was not available to read until a short time before we started our debate.

Democrats offered multiple amendments that would have addressed some of the issues, including expanding Medicaid and measures to help Kansas workers and ensure safe work environments. None of our amendments prevailed.

The positive part of the bill does extend the Emergency Declaration to Sept. 15, 2020, and puts in place a process for legislative review of the distribution of the CARES Act federal funding.

When we rush legislation and do not have hearings to allow the public and subject matter experts to weigh in there are almost always unintended consequences. I wish the process for HB 2016 would have been different to allow for greater input. I will continue to fight for Kansas workers who are bearing the brunt of this pandemic and the economic downturn. I will also continue to fight for the rights of essential workers who are keeping this economy going and putting their lives and those of their loved ones at risk.


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Opinion: Something lacking at the top in the handling of the Minneapolis incident

In the wake of the Minneapolis incident involving the treatment of George Floyd, who died in custody of Minneapolis police, we were saddened, outraged and disappointed. That incident should never have happened.

After the event, our top national leaders could have done more to deal with the country’s dismay over what happened. Instead, what we heard were comments threatening protesters, that threw gas on the fires of outrage.

We keep waiting for a national task force to be announced from the top in an effort to stop other incidents like the one in Minneapolis, but we’re not holding our breath.

Our local leaders in the Kansas City area, however, have done a better job in their leadership roles in addressing the issue of how police should treat those who have been arrested, and they say they have rules in place to prevent that from happening. That is very reassuring, and we commend our local leaders for having better judgment than some of our national leaders.