Lt. Richard Collins III was killed by a radical extremist.
Can we say that?
In the aftermath of a terrorist bombing in Manchester, England I am still trying to wrap my brain around the horrific killing far closer to home. The University of Maryland is experiencing a wave of racist ugliness. Since the presidential election episodes of this sort of domestic terror have exploded across the country.
Let's call it what it is.
This is terrorism. It is radical extremism. We need to set our warning systems to the highest level to protect potential victims. But are we? Has University of Maryland leadership truly engaged with the African American community and acted on their concerns? I'm seeing some discussions on Twitter that lead me to believe that institutional response has been disappointing to the student community.
No meaningful education can take place in an environment where students feel that they are more likely to be harassed, intimidated, and even killed merely for the color of their skin. And if this kind of racist violence causes students of color to stay away, it calls into question the fundamental legitimacy of UMD as an institution of higher learning.
If some are excluded, all are affected.
I don't question the sincerity of those who grieve for the victims in Manchester. But it is every bit as appropriate to grieve for Richard Collins and for his empty chair at the Bowie State graduation ceremony. That empty chair represents all the gifts and potential lost. A place where this young man should have been safe was not.
If taking a hard look at that motivates us to do something in our own communities, it will be a step in the right direction.