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Incidents of racial bias are common and must be stopped

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Friday, May 18, 2018 10:57 PM

Recently, Colorado State University has been in the news for an unfortunate incident that occurred on the Fort Collins campus.

On April 30, two Native American prospective teen students were approached by campus police while on a group tour of the campus. Police were responding to a call from a 45-year-old white woman. Reports indicate the woman felt uncomfortable because of the prospective students’ quiet demeanor and dark clothing.

The teen boys were separated from the tour group, searched and questioned by campus police. The police confirmed the boys were registered for the campus tour, doing nothing wrong and were not a safety risk. They were told they could rejoin the remainder of the tour.

You can watch video footage of the incident here: https://safety.colostate.edu.

These teen boys were unfairly treated and racially profiled. CSU was their “dream school” to attend. They didn’t rejoin the tour as they were scared and humiliated. As an employee of the university’s extension system, a white man of privilege and a community member, I am saddened by the incident.

As your La Plata County 4-H and youth development extension agent, I work to provide an inclusive environment where all backgrounds are welcome. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religious affiliation or sexual orientation.

Our region of the world is blessed with having a vibrant Native American culture. The Southern Ute Indian Reservation provides significant value to our local area. These reasons and so many more are why this incident is so disturbing to me.

Unfortunately, these types of biased incidents are common in our society. Current national headlines show these incidents occurring on a regular basis. The incidents that occurred to black Americans at a Starbucks in Philadelphia and on the Yale University campus are alarming.

As a society, are we able and willing to have a civil dialogue on racism?

Colorado State University President Tony Frank released a statement after the incident. I thought it provided good insight for many of us who have trouble grasping how these incidents continue to occur in our society. Here is a little portion:

“What can all of us take away from this experience? What can we learn from it to make ourselves and our community more just? It seems to me that we can all examine our conscience about the times in our own lives when we’ve crossed the street, avoided eye contact or walked a little faster because we were concerned about the appearance of someone we didn’t know but who was different from us. That difference often, sadly, includes race. We have to be alert to this, look for it, recognize it – and stop it. We simply have got to expect and to be better; our children and our world deserve it and demand it.”

As the extension wing of your land-grant university, we have an obligation to the residents of Colorado and specifically La Plata County to provide our services to all members of our community.

Greg Felsen is the La Plata County 4-H youth development agent. Reach him at gregory.felsen@co.laplata.co.us or 382-6463.Greg Felsen

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