Friday, May 29, 2020
Dear Campus Community,
Jani and I watched the video. I have been reflecting on the unnecessary and tragic death of Mr. George Floyd and over these past three days I have been trying to find a way – as a person and as your President – to articulate my feelings of anguish and frustration. I would like to share the following with you.
On Monday night, people who watched the video of Mr. Floyd’s death were having discussions about what happened and were no doubt trying to understand why it happened. Our African American friends and colleagues’ conversations included something Jani and I, as a white Americans, did not have to consider. The pain, anguish and anger of having yet another (Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, and Ahmaud Arbery) discussion about how to stay safe in public spaces, racial profiling, and when will this change? This is the reality of the deep rooted racism and bias, and racial profiling experienced by members of our African American community and other communities of color. This reality isn’t a “Minneapolis problem”, it is the daily lived experience of racism that our friends, colleagues and students of color experience. To our African American faculty, staff and students, I am sorry for and acknowledge your pain and anguish that the death of Mr. Floyd has caused.
The heartbreaking end to Mr. Floyd’s life must be the catalyst for us, as individuals and members of our university, to continue our work for diversity, equity and inclusion. As members of a higher education institution, that prides itself in the power of knowledge to change our lives and our world for the better, we have a responsibility to not only educate ourselves about the historical and on-going issues of racism and prejudice but also to act to change this lived reality of people both known and unknown to us.
Educate. Embrace the personal responsibility to understand the connections between racism, economic and health care issues, sexism, and other forms of injustice. I have personally found the following books and podcasts helpful to my personal growth. These are The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas; Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates; Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson; The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin; A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, by Sun Yung Shin; Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change, by John Lewis. Check out podcasts including Hidden Brain’s podcast “The Mind of the Village” that examines research about prejudices so deeply buried, we often doubt their existence. Connect with the faculty who lead SCSU’s Community Anti-Racism Education Initiative (C.A.R.E.) program. Listen to the message Dean Shonda Craft shared with KARE11 yesterday.
Act. Speak up. Have conversations with yourself, your friends, family members or individuals that are directly impacted by this every single day. As educators, we must recommit to the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in our learning, living and working environments. Reach out to faculty who lead the Anti-Racist Pedagogy Across the Curriculum (ARPAC) Project. Look for an email from me in the coming weeks about participating in a Zoom conversation in partnership with the C.A.R.E, about diversity, equity and inclusion and different resources available.
In closing, when we begin to redefine and redesign our university through the It’s Time work in the next academic year, our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will be a critical aspect of this initiative. Let’s be the university that chose to take this tragedy and demonstrate that we can make a positive difference in the lives of our all our students, faculty, staff and community.
With warm regards,
Dr. Robbyn Wacker
President, St. Cloud State University