Black. Lives. Matter.
I say this explicitly as a straightforward statement of fact and a call for human rights.
Over the years, Willamette has taken measures to increase our diversity, equity, and inclusion — and yet, we still have so much work to do. It is critical work to be done and it needs to be done right now. That said, I also acknowledge that the seemingly “new urgency” of this work is troubling. Antiracist work is as old as the lifespan of the United States. Black, Brown, and Indigenous people have been fighting white supremacy for centuries. Some white people have supported these efforts, but not powerfully enough. Our current moment asks us to reckon both with the past and the future, and acknowledge that antiracist work is collective ongoing work: it’s never done and never enough. Put another way, we cannot engage in this work only at the most volatile movements when violence against Black bodies is at its most visible only to lose interest until the next incident. Let us use this momentum as a catalyst for deep, meaningful, and long-lasting change. This will be challenging, emotional, and complex work, and yet I can’t think of anything more important.
As President Thorsett mentioned in his email last week, we are seeking your partnership in deepening our antiracist work on campus. I know that for some folks, the first step is developing a deeper understanding of race, racism, and the ongoing struggle for racial justice in the US. Many of you have reached out in the past week asking for advice on getting started, or continuing, on your activist journey. Thus, this summer, I invite you to participate in a self-directed, shared opportunity for learning and growth. Then, when we return to campus this fall, the University EDI committee invites you to further participate in a series of facilitated discussions, listening sessions, and workshops that allow us to process and share our thinking and learning. I ask you to not just “complete” the programs but to find ways to weave what you’ve learned into your lives. A critical step in this work is understanding how to link these ideas and concepts to institutional change, the focus of our fall campus-wide programming. Individual-level growth is important, but we are at a time when the personal must be coupled with the political. Meaningful individual accountability must be paired with real, systemic change.
For those of you who are looking for a place to start, I recommend Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr.’s 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge. This challenge is intended for folks at the beginning of their antiracist work and focuses strongly on the racial Black/white binary. It also includes some materials related to Indigenous, Asian American, and Latinx representation. The focus on whiteness in the list is intentional. Dr. Moore is an antiracist educator who emphasizes the importance of understanding white privilege as an insidious tool in upholding white supremacy. While no collection of materials will offer the perfect combination of tools, I recommend Moore’s challenge even while recognizing its limitations.
I am aware that many of you are the Black, Brown, and Indigenous youth currently at the front lines of movements for racial justice. You are brilliant thinkers and activists who have much to teach us about creating a community based on principles of equity and justice. For you, I offer an advanced reading list, compiled by faculty in our American Ethnic Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies programs. These resources are for those who, because of their lived experiences and/or the work they’ve already done to educate themselves, are further along in antiracist thinking and want to better understand the ways in which race intersects with other identities, work on coalition building, explore divide and conquer tactics, or investigate how communities of color are complicit in maintaining white supremacy even while being impacted by it. These readings are intended to be liberating, galvanizing, paradigm-shifting, and inspiring. Faculty have offered to lead more advanced discussion sessions about these materials and to engage in dialogues about the readings with students, faculty, and staff who already have been doing antiracist work.
Now is the time for us to ask how can we live up to being the institution we say we are — one that strives to be socially just and serve others. What will it look like to reimagine our University and inspire meaningful change? Let us not miss this opportunity to join together to make our University community a more just and equitable place.
Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion