Over the past few months, we have seen both the best and worst of humanity. Campuses and communities have demonstrated extraordinary care for one another during this pandemic. The pandemic also is a backdrop that magnifies a continuum of racism that has created inequity, fueled violence, and intensified prejudices. Recent acts of violence and racism directed at people of color tax the patience, health, and safety of our staff, students, and faculty of color. Witnessing these public events renews our commitment – as educators and social workers – to understand and acknowledge the effects of privilege and oppression, and work to create a more equitable world.
The list of injustices experienced during this health crisis is long, and likely will grow longer and more difficult: Negative stereotypes and references to the "Chinese virus," and other anti-Asian comments on social media and in the press by global leaders and lawmakers led to a spike in verbal and physical attacks on members of the Asian community. Startling disparities in infection, hospitalization, and mortality continue among African Americans, LatinX residents, and Native Americans. A White woman weaponizes her White privilege to demonize a Black man who attempts to birdwatch in Central Park. White men chase, shoot, and kill a male Black jogger and avoid arrest for months in Georgia. Law enforcement continue to use excessive force and abuse their power - kneeling on the neck of a Black man who begs for air, killing him and launching days of destruction in Minneapolis, and shooting a Black transgender man in Tallahassee. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. Tony McDade. And countless other names unknown or unsaid.
Digging out requires a combination of strategies: organizing, protesting, electoral engagement, accountability for those who commit violence, legislative and policy changes, and more. There are no easy answers or fixes. And the work must be shared equally: White people must join as allies with people of color in condemning racist rhetoric and race-based violence and policies, and work as committed partners in action and organizing.
We call on all our White community members to step up, commit to anti-racism work, and non-black people of color to explicitly address anti-blackness. We must all engage in action-oriented solutions to combat systemic and institutional racism, minimize disparities, and end racial violence.
Sara Furr, Dean of Students, Equity and Inclusion
Deborah Gorman-Smith, Dean