by Linnie S. Carter, Ph.D., APR
HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College
When I look at U.S. President Joe Biden, a white man, and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, a Black, Asian-American woman, I see a familiar dynamic. No, this article is not about politics. Yes, this article is about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Who is Ski? A 60-something white man who grew up in Ohio and who was the first in his immediate family to graduate from college. Who am I? A 51-year-old Black woman who grew up in Virginia and was the first in her immediate family to graduate from college.
Dr. Ski – short for Dr. John J. Sygielski – hired me for the first time in 2005, when he was the president at a community college in Virginia. I was his vice president of college advancement – the youngest member and only person of color on his cabinet. We developed a deep bond that has lasted for more than 16 years.
Today, in 2021, he is president of the largest community college in Pennsylvania. I am his vice president of college advancement. When he hired me for the second time in 2012, I was the college’s first Black woman vice president. I told him I would remain in my position for three to five years. I have been honored to serve for more than nine years. Why?
I love our college. I love my team. I love our mission of changing and saving lives. However – especially in light of the increasing racial terrorism against BIPOC – having a thoughtful, courageous, progressive, empathetic and antiracist leader and mentor like Dr. Ski is life-changing.
Dr. Ski has shown up for me and other Black women for many years. Why? Racists, white supremacists and misogynists are threatened by high-performing, outspoken, intelligent, successful, courageous, ethical, moral, fun and outcomes-based Black women with doctoral degrees. These bigots’ hatred, jealousy and insecurities are evident on college campuses throughout the country. These people are among our presidents, professors, board members, donors and alumni.
There are many ways you and your president can show up for BIPOC, especially Black women. However, I will focus on five. Just think of this word: G.R.A.C.E.
- Give them the benefit of the doubt.
- Respect, acknowledge and leverage their candor, courage, loyalty, strength and talents.
- Afford them the same opportunities you would give a white person and/or a male.
- Care privately and publicly.
- Expose instances of racism, white supremacy and misogyny.
Dr. Ski has exemplified this G.R.A.C.E. for many years. I can only hope President Biden takes a page out of Dr. Ski’s book and shows G.R.A.C.E. for Vice President Harris throughout their term. I am confident she will need, deserve and appreciate it.
This is the first of two articles about the importance of advocating for women of color and is part of an occasional series from DEI committee members that will highlight issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Linnie S. Carter, Ph.D., APR, is vice president of college advancement at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, and executive director of the HACC Foundation.