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Beck Taylor expresses his solidarity to show up, speak out for justice


Beck Taylor walked in the Martin Luther King Jr. March with his daughter, Chloe, 9.

Seeing himself as an ally fighting for racial justice and reconciliation in the community, Whitworth University President Beck Taylor expressed his solidarity and willingness to “show up, speak out and be counted when the trumpets for justice sound.”

As leader of an institution of higher learning, he believes he needs to equip the community to lift up those who are marginalized and discriminated against, and to tear down walls of hatred and fear.

Beck told of his personal journey to discovering his role in the “cosmic journey toward justice.”  He realizes that being an ally in the cause of justice doesn’t look the same for everyone.

He sees common threads in stories of people who give their lives to serve, who struggle for justice and who oppose those who “demean the humanity of others and oppress the causes of freedom and equality.”

Beck’s journey began with the “sobering reality that I personally benefit from privileges and power that are a function of my skin color, gender, citizenship, health and other characteristics that are unmerited and should not correlate with my position in society or opportunities I’ve been given.”

He was not speaking out of guilt but recognizing he, as others, is the product of his circumstances.

“We cannot claim credit for many things that cause us to climb higher or hold us back, but recognizing where we stand in the spectrum of power and privilege is an important first step in being allies,” he said.

From the Gospel of Luke, he quoted Jesus: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Having been given much in life compels him to do much to serve.

Another step in his journey is to admit that social, economic and educational systems, as well as prejudices and stereotypes have led, in part, to his position of power and are “the same flawed systems that serve as a yoke of oppression, cruelty, disadvantage and inhumanity for many of my neighbors,” Beck said.

“Racism and discrimination are sins—not just my sins, your sins or the other person’s sins, but our sins,” he said.

The sum of “the scourge of racism” is greater than its parts, he said, noting that structural forms of oppression are everywhere.

“It takes courage to chip away at the stepping stones of power that elevated many of us to the top of the pyramid, in order to level the playing field and create opportunities for others,” he said. “That’s what real allies do.”

In addition to owning his own power and privilege, recognizing he has been given much and understanding systems that help sustain cultures and outcomes of discrimination, he said there’s another step to being a friend and ally.

“That is to show up and be counted among those who devote their lives to ensuring that chains of oppression and discrimination are broken,” he said.

While he can admit his own privileges, and studies historical and structural sources of bias and racism from the safety of his world, “the ivory tower of education,” he said that, until he and others step out of their worlds and into the worlds occupied by the tired, downtrodden, oppressed, and other agents of justice and mercy, “we cannot count ourselves among the allies serving this righteous cause,” he said.

To be counted, he said, people need to step out of their comfort zones and risk linking arms with people who are different but share in this fight for freedom.

Dr. King risked everything. He gave everything, even his life: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends,” Beck said. “Dr. King wasn’t always understood. Drum majors for justice rarely are.”

In April 1963, Dr. King went to Birmingham, Ala., against the advice of many fellow clergy.  In his letter from the Birmingham jail, he told critics, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.”

Beck lived in Birmingham when he was dean and professor of economics at the Brock School of Business at Samford University.  He also taught business at Baylor University in Waco, Tex., where he earned his undergraduate degrees in economics and finance. He earned master’s and doctoral degrees in economics at Purdue University.

At Whitworth, he has emphasized community involvement.

“We are here today because injustice is here, in our community and nation,” he said. “Whenever and wherever injustice rears its evil head, we will show up and be counted.

“Today isn’t a check-the-box day. After this rally, we won’t simply go back to our homes, work and worship to waste the next 364 days,” Beck said.

“No, we will use this day to commence our year of steadfast, inspired work to bring justice, equality, fairness, love and shalom to our communities, and to work to tear down walls of hostility and hatred in our midst,” he said. 

“Today, and every day, we need to be allies in this cause,” Beck challenged.

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