During the past several weeks there has been pain, sadness and anger over the violence and threat of violence against the African American community. The disturbing image of George Floyd detained, handcuffed with a knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, while he lay dying, has been difficult to comprehend. To remain silent is to be complicit.
This shocking event comes on the heels of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, killed while jogging Feb. 23, Breonna Taylor, shot to death by police raiding her home March 13, and the countless others who have been the victims of racist harassment, assault and murder that stretches for generations in our nation. There are names that will never make headlines or ever become public. I know that this weighs heavily for so many in our campus community.
Like many of you, I have watched as protesters and law enforcement collide - riot gear, tear gas, rubber bullets and burning buildings - lives lost.
I stand with those who are hurting. I am hurting, too.
These events have not gone unnoticed. But we have to remember these events are the result of historical and systematic inequities where millions of individuals have been treated differently for more than four centuries based on the color of their skin. From voting to getting affordable health care or enjoying a day in the park, these everyday experiences have become tragic, painful and life-altering moments for members of our global community who deserve freedom from oppression and justice.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has further uncovered the many hidden inequities in our society. We call people essential workers and yet they receive less than living wages and are often denied critical health care for themselves and their children. These populations are disproportionately vulnerable to death from the COVID-19 pandemic and are largely people of color. At what point do we get disgusted by these inequities and say enough is enough?
Here at LCC, we have the benefit of working with some great police officers, and there are many like them who protect and serve every day. Understanding that policing in America has remained a challenge for decades, it is only a small part of a much deeper and broader failure of this society to live up to the pledge of America "to have liberty and justice for all." In truth, this pledge cannot be attained as long as there are people who are not being treated with dignity and respect.
LCC is committed to being an inclusive college and we will continue to embrace and support diversity and inclusion. As a college community, we must join together to ensure all members of our community - students, faculty, staff and visitors - not only feel welcomed and safe, but experience our community as a place to thrive. Each and every member of our community must know they are valued, they belong here, and that we celebrate the rich diversity they bring to LCC. We should not tolerate anything less.
As we move forward in virtual engagements, the college's Office of Diversity and Inclusion will continue to provide training on implicit bias, foundations of power, privilege and oppression to ensure adherence to LCC's values of inclusivity and opposing oppression. We will also work to enhance our partnerships and agreements with police agencies in the communities where LCC operates so we may mutually advance inclusive justice for all people.
In the days, weeks and months ahead, I ask that each of us continue to participate in dialogue designed to find common ground as we seek to alter the direction of society.
I know this will not happen overnight, but in the words of James Baldwin, "Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed unless it is faced."
We will always stand on the side of what is right and we will always condemn racial injustice.
As our nation continues to deal with this anguish, you may find you are experiencing a wide range of feelings, emotions and reactions. Please remember you can always contact LCC's free, confidential employee assistance program for support.
Finally, I believe that in times of change, we must be the change we want to see! Therefore, I've adapted a few practical suggestions to help us all from the article "Dear White People: Here Are 10 Actions You Can Take To Promote Racial Justice In The Workplace," by Dana Brownlee:
- Get to know more people (especially those from cultures who are experiencing injustices
Fear is often the root of bigotry and one of the best antidotes for erasing fear is knowledge and familiarity. Reach out to that co-worker whom you call a friend, but don't know where they were born, how many siblings they have or their favorite hobby. Now is the time to broaden your circle and expand your connection.
- Reach out and conduct a wellness check on a friend or colleague.
Whether its COVID-19 related or the recent outcries of injustice across the nation, make time to reach out and connect with someone from a culture or community different than yours who is being impacted by the crisis. If it takes you more than 15 seconds to think of someone to call, see tip #1. For instance, call a friend or colleague if they had a death in the family or lost a job, to offer our concerns and show support. Unprecedented incidents such as these take a toll on the psyche of so many people, especially those closely impacted by it.
- Understand the relativity of privilege.
There are many types privilege, like male privilege, able-bodied privilege, cisgender privilege and white privilege. Often times, we fail to acknowledge our privilege because we limit the understanding of privilege to own personal struggles or experiences and then contextualize it to mean a person who has had things go "easy" for them. However, privilege is a part of reality that helps some while it impedes others' experiences. Remember your discomfort over confronting your privilege is a privilege in itself. So confront your privileges and to listen thoughtfully to the personal struggles of others. Stand in solidarity with those who are suffering from the effects of this pandemic and various injustices.
- Participate in transformative efforts and educate yourself.
How? The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) will be hosting a series of conversations, community talks, healing forums and engagement opportunities. The RISE Summer Institute is a great way to learn and engage while coming up with actionable items to implement, whether you are faculty or staff. Participating in unconscious bias training as well as cultural competence institutes can assist you in meeting new people and provide an opportunity to see issues from a different perspective.
- Talk to your kids and family about race.
It's important kids begin to learn about issues of race and equity early (in an age-appropriate manner) so they can begin to develop their own awareness of injustice. While we may think of these issues are purely adult ones, equity issues often show up for kids quite early on the playground or in the classroom or cafeteria. Engage your family in discussions, and watch films that educate on justice or confronting inequities. If you don't feel prepared for these sensitive discussions, check out this article.
- Become a mentor; give access to power.
Find someone who is doing great things and be a mentor. If you're in a leadership position, encourage your colleagues in management roles to do the same. Regardless of your title or position, each one can reach one. Giving the voiceless access to power can break the cycle and create change for those who may never otherwise have access to it.
- Reduce bias in objective selection processes.
Subjectivity is often the death knell for people of color. Too often, when selection processes or other decisions are made without clear cut, objective criteria, people of color end up getting the short end of the stick.
- Advocate for justice and challenge your own stereotypical beliefs.
Changing your behaviors and actions starts with changing your thoughts. Challenge yourself to identify your own deeply embedded stereotypes or bigoted thoughts.
- Speak up publicly.
Micro-aggressions and inequities are pervasive in the workplace, and it's so important for everyone to speak up when they happen. When you see something, say something.
- Listen and support each other.
As people genuinely share their respective journeys, listen to understand. Supporting each other is our greatest strength. Our strength is in our unity.
Office of Diversity and Inclusion