Renewing Our Commitment to Dismantle Racism

June 1, 2020

Unfortunately, the brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer repeats a pattern of racist acts of violence and murder we have witnessed far too often in our society. We share the grief, frustration and anger that unfathomable, appalling and preventable acts like this one spur. The list of African Americans who have been brutally killed is lengthy and stretches over the history of our nation. Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are simply the most recent victims.

The protests against this continued violence reflect the outrage against the many forms of systemic racism, hatred or bias that have disproportionately impacted communities of color for decades. The COVID-19 epidemic has also underscored socioeconomic and health disparities in our country, with the disease excessively impacting communities of color because of these disparities.

As a College of Liberal Arts, addressing pressing issues impacting humans and societies is our priority and responsibility. As national protests against racist brutality and systemic injustices and inequities rise across our nation, we must continue to seek ways to educate, inform and act according to our principles and our mission. Closer to home, we stand with our African American colleagues and students whose pain and anger have personal and long-standing dimensions and we are committed to helping create the change they want and need to see.

As expressed in our statement on racism and bias, the College of Liberal Arts is committed to working “to dismantle racism and discrimination on campus, in our communities and in society as part of our shared efforts to elevate humanity.” We also “unequivocally reject white supremacy, racism and other forms of hate and bias.” As a College, we have taken decisive action to work toward these goals. Many of you assist with these efforts in various ways, from educating students and communities about structural and systemic racism to working with local organizations to address racism and discrimination head-on.

Our strategic plan for the College is guided by our overall commitment to diversity, equity and inclusivity. This fall, we will be welcoming a cohort of new faculty and staff who will undoubtedly help us advance our goals. Among them are specialists in Black studies and diversity and equity in the criminal justice system. Our strategic plan also includes the establishment of affinity working groups. The Indigenous studies working group and the Latinx studies working group are already underway. This fall, we will begin a Black studies working group and an LGBTQ+ studies working group (additional affinity groups will follow). These interdisciplinary working groups will be instrumental in developing and expanding education, research and programming in these critical areas.

What has happened these last couple of weeks motivates us to think about immediate steps we can take to address the challenges we are currently facing. We are working on plans to advance some of our goals in more strategic ways. We recognize the importance of responding to the current racial, health and economic crises and supporting faculty, staff, students and community partners, especially those who may be disproportionally impacted by current events. Our ideas include organizing a teach-in and drawing on experts in our College to help our campus and the community at large during this troubling time. We welcome any other ideas you may have. Moreover, if you are interested in assisting with any of the efforts described above, please contact us directly.

At this critical juncture, it is crucial to renew our commitment to dismantle racism and discrimination. We remain steadfast in this struggle and pledge to do all we can to assist communities that are being especially harmed by racial disparities and injustices.