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National Conversations   

A call to action

for truth, healing and building an anti-racist campus

 

The start of the semester takes me to those first days as a new assistant professor when I taught American Civilization and Intro to Ethnic Studies. Like so many first generation Ph.D.s, and a student of Chicana historian Vicki Ruiz, I knew I had a responsibility to center the narrative of marginalized communities that lived in the silences of U.S. History. I believed then, as I do now, that my role is to provoke deep reflection on our nation’s legacy of dehumanization: enslavement, dispossession, and genocide. Those acts built systemic inequities that have inflicted physical, spiritual, economic, and mental harm on marginalized bodies; they continue to destroy our ability to build community.

This fall I enter my second year leading Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; today, our team is committed to creating multiple models that disrupt and uproot the practices rooted in our nation’s legacies. We must make space for truth telling, breathing in the necessary healing, and laying the groundwork in centering anti-racism as the springboard in making our campus inclusive to all.

So too each of us, in EDI or across campus, has a voice, a role, and a responsibility. The legacies that constrain us are deep and long, and we are not going to solve our discomfort with training. The work we must do is about rooting out the systematic racism that lives in the everyday. We must recognize that racism pervades the structures that have raised us and that we in turn have fostered. We cannot run from that system, but we can dismantle its roots. My first call to you: Know the power of racism and whiteness in your world and the privileges they afford you. Own your racism.

There can be no movement forward on anti-racism unless every person on campus commits to examining bias and discrimination across our institution, taking action, and amplifying the voices of the marginalized in developing more equitable initiatives.

The work of change is deep and long. Each of us must examine our actions and set into motion our commitment to engage in this work – we must name and own our investments in whiteness and white supremacy because each of us, in some way, is complicit in perpetuating discriminatory policies. There can be no movement forward on anti-racism unless every person on campus commits to examining bias and discrimination across our institution, taking action, and amplifying the voices of the marginalized in developing more equitable initiatives.

We must confront and acknowledge daily that we can and must change the course of our country’s investment in anti-Black racism ingrained in racial hierarchy. Non-Black communities of color must recognize that the same anti-Black system that killed George Floyd also permits and perpetuates deportation, detention and disparities. Centering our work on the undoing of anti-Black racism does not minimize that reality; however, we cannot allow the national discourse on EDI to undermine or negate the foundational work of anti-Black racism. Instead, we must attend to the broad work of EDI while also turning our attention to the dismantling of our historic and ongoing oppression of Black and African American people.

Going forward we must disentangle the interlocking systemic inequities animated by anti-Black racism. I encourage you to join us on this journey to achieve our goal of an anti-racist campus grounded in equity and inclusion.

Now we start the long work of putting our words of support into sustained action. In Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion we are building a collective that provides support and resources to all of the University of Utah. Following the murder of George Floyd, we issued a Call to Action Equity, outlining what the university is doing and how you can become a partner, helping us to achieve our goal of an anti-racist campus. Going forward we must disentangle the interlocking systemic inequities animated by anti-Black racism. I encourage you to join us on this journey to achieve our goal of an anti-racist campus grounded in equity and inclusion. We cannot change the past, but we can commit to creating a more equitable future for all.

Recently, EDI launched an Executive Committee comprised of faculty and administrative thought leaders across campus whose first project will be to interrogate institutional policies and practices that perpetuate racism, bias, and systemic inequity in the recruitment, hiring and advancement of staff and faculty. The committee will be asked to deliver their findings by November 1.

Read Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’s Call to Action.

Support the U’s George Floyd Memorial Fund to advance the interests of the next generation of Black leaders.

Public safety statement underscores commitment to serving the U community.