Camas resident and retired U.S. Air Force Major General Richard C. ‘Buck’ Marr shares his thoughts on President Dr. Karin Edwards’ efforts to improve equitable treatment of students at Clark College
Camas resident and retired U.S. Air Force Major General Richard C. “Buck’’ Marr is in lock step with Clark College President Dr. Karin Edwards on two important viewpoints. Like Edwards, who was announced as Clark College’s new president on Feb. 21, 2020, Marr is passionate about Clark College and he wants to see that all students and potential students receive equitable treatment.
“It has been a wonderful educational institution for over 70 years,’’ Marr said of Clark College. “Now, it is becoming a microcosm of what is happening in our country.’’
Marr said he has worked diligently for many years for the good of the college while a member of the Veterans Resource Center Advisory Board.
“I believe in what the college stood for and the value imparted to its students including our veteran students,’’ Marr said.
With that appreciation for the college’s history and legacy, Marr said he was “thrilled’’ when Edwards was announced as Clark’s new president.
“I believe she is a brilliant and dedicated educator,’’ Marr said of Edwards. “I was thrilled when she was selected because I looked forward to following what I call the ‘MLK’ philosophy addressing our racial equities to eradicate or diminish race as a negative factor in our society. As a retired military person, I worked hard for decades to build on the total talents of my people with no eye to the color of their skin.’’
Marr said he continues to support Edwards as Clark’s president. However, he is very concerned about comments she made during her May 7 State of the College Address, specifically what she said beginning at the 6:25-minute mark..
“Last year, we introduced a year-long, intensive, professional development program for employees focused on diversity, equity and inclusion called: Broadening Understanding Intercultural Leadership Development, otherwise known as BUILD. The BUILD program has created a new cohort of leaders at the college guiding their peers towards syllabus redesigns, new training sessions and new ways of thinking that help dismantle white supremacy culture.’’
Here was Marr’s reaction:
“Surely, Dr. Edwards doesn’t mean what she said about dismantling white supremacy culture,’’ Marr said. “I served in the Armed Forces for 32 years, participating in three armed conflicts along the way with 18 different family addresses. Sometimes my sons changed school every year or two. I maintained an apolitical stance. It seems to me that there are plenty of things in the world to be working together to solve rather than ripping our population apart for something as divisive as Critical Race Theory.
“I have been on a veteran advisory board at Clark for several years and have worked voluntarily with the Clark Foundation to raise monies for the college,’’ Marr said. “Now, I find out that the president is interested in dismantling me and my fellow volunteers by incorporating various elements of the cancel culture ideology including Critical Race Theory. I think Dr. Edwards is misguided. Dr. Edwards needs to know that we are here to help not to be dismantled.’’
Marr said his career as a two-star general in the U.S. Air Force has framed his educational experience. Enroute to promotions, the government sent him to three post graduate schools — twice to the Kennedy School at Harvard and once to Johns Hopkins University.
“One of my fields of study was the evolution of world governments within the context of various ideologies, i.e. capitalism, socialism, communism etc.,’’ Marr said. “It is clear that the Marxist/Leninist ideology was and still is committed to overturning the United States style of governance. When early socialists realized they were failing many decades ago, they turned their attention to using race as a way of building division within our U.S. population. Critical Race Theory is a tool by which serious Marxists hope to achieve a classless society in our country.’’
In May, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a bill, passed by the Washington State Legislature, that incorporates Critical Race Theory into the training for all K-12 educators across the state. The issue has been intensely debated by many in the state and even here in Clark County. Here are some previous thoughts I had on the subject as well as one other published commentary with some background and insight.
Specifically, as it pertains to his concerns at Clark, Marr believes that Edwards’ strategy might actually have an adverse impact on the culture at the college.
“I applaud her efforts to achieve equity in educational outcomes for Clark’s students,’’ Marr said. “I simply believe that in her genuine passion to create equitable educational outcomes she used an unfortunate phrase. Those remarks may have unintended coincidences, which will affect her success.
“In my opinion, the potential exists to deepen, not improve, the racial tensions which may exist at Clark and in the community by identifying underrepresented communities of people who need help and those people in the majority who need dismantling,’’ Marr said. “In a county that is roughly 85 percent white and 2 percent black, those comments have not gone unnoticed. I don’t believe Dr. Edwards knowingly tried to alienate the white population, but I think while trying to fix one problem, she could be creating another.
“I would respectfully suggest Dr. Edwards moderate her comments to be acceptable to all students and faculty,’’ Marr said. “Afterall, almost immediately after she made those comments in her speech, she said that Clark College ‘welcomes all students.’ Those targeted for dismantling might not feel so welcome.’’
Marr is not without a suggested solution, and it is born out of his appreciation for Martin Luther King, Jr. and several other Civil Rights leaders.
“Follow the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr.,’’ Marr suggested. “He was a social activist who also sought equality for disadvantaged communities but his approach was peaceful and not combative, like cancel culture social justice warriors. In my humble opinion, MLK would never have said a goal of his was to dismantle white supremacy. Read his last speech in Memphis, which he gave the day before being assassinated in 1968. Peaceful, nonviolent, but relentless. Cooperate but don’t compromise in a struggle to achieve equality. His work was instrumental in the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That was a huge achievement at that time.’’
In summation, Marr’s advice to President Edwards is simple.
“I respectfully remind her that words matter,’’ Marr said. “Dismantling hurts people. Please treat all people fairly and equally.’’
I do not consider myself an expert on Civil Rights or social justice matters. I do believe this. I believe racism exists in our world, this country, the region and even right here in Clark County. However, I believe it is the exception and not the rule. To paint any group of people with one broad stroke of the brush, in this case using a call to action as volatile as “dismantle white supremacy,’’ is dangerous. And, ultimately, I don’t think it will breed success.
In my opinion, there is evidence, mostly anecdotal, that the tactics used in the last year in the fight against racism and pursuit of social justice in this country have not resulted in any significant gains. After spending much time listening to “Buck’’ Marr, I know he is sincere in his desire for things to get better, both in general and at Clark College. Perhaps, Dr. Edwards should reconsider her remarks and her philosophy.