June 10, 2020
Message to the College of Education and Human Services Community on Responses to Systemic Racism
It is incumbent on those of us who care about equity and justice to speak and act against racism and white supremacy—and that has never been more obvious than now, given the current expressions of pain and outrage evident in the numerous protests in this country in recent days.
Once again, the U.S. is experiencing an explosion of anger and despair over the all-too-familiar violence against Black and Brown communities and individuals in this country. The pattern of violence against people of color, which is then answered by protests that do not lead to change, has become a “normal” part of our experience. And this is a tragic and terrifying reality. As Charles Blow wrote in his column in the May 31 New York Times, “Oppression and pain…breed despair,” and “despair has an incredible power to initiate destruction.” We are seeing the truth of this playing out across the U.S.
In our own academic community, we are feeling pain about the recent horrific murders of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Ahmaud Arbery by two white neighbors in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor by Louisville police—among so many others throughout U.S. history. Our Black colleagues, students, staff, faculty, and community partners, especially, are experiencing a very personal pain, anguish, and grief. It is important for those of us who are not Black or Brown to acknowledge this and for all of us to re-commit to acting against racism, white supremacy, and racial oppression.
Our College mission to work to create a healthier, better educated, more just society has never been more relevant than now. In addition to the recent malicious murders of Black Americans, the coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately affecting Black and Brown people and poor people. Those who are not deemed worthy of $15/hour wages are now seen as “essential” to making food and other services available to those of us who have the privilege of staying at home. And the economic impact of the pandemic is pushing people who live paycheck-to-paycheck into poverty and leaving many without food or housing. This will mean that, for many of them, further education will undoubtedly be a luxury they cannot afford.
What we do—educating people—is of utmost importance. Education can promote critical thinking, reflection, analysis, and an understanding of the value of human diversity. And people who choose to focus their work in education and human services, like all of us in the College of Education and Human Services, have important roles to play in fostering these qualities in our students as they prepare for their careers in education and human services. I trust that all of us in our CEHS community will redouble our efforts to live up to our mission.
As a College, we are committed to taking concrete actions to fight racism. The Advancing Equity and Justice in CEHS Task Force is leading efforts to enact the Education Deans for Justice and Equity (EDJE) Framework in our continuing exploration of ways to confront and push back against the inequities in our own community that uphold systemic racism. The Critical Urban Education Speaker Series seeks to develop participants’ racial and political analysis of social and cultural issues influencing urban schools and communities. The most recent event, on June 1, led by Shawn Ginright, San Francisco State University Professor, was called Healing America’s Racial Divisions in the Era of Coronavirus. The Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Project hosts events and initiatives dedicated to eradicating racism and prejudice. Through EdPrepLab, a group of CEHS faculty and staff are conducting an Inquiry Project in partnership with UCLA and UC Berkeley to prepare and sustain anti-racist, socially just teachers and leaders. These initiatives and others in the College are tackling racism and white supremacy head-on.
Education alone does not eradicate racism and white supremacy. It is embedded in all our institutions and in our daily lives. I ask that all of us, as a College and as individuals, stand with Black and Brown people and communities. I ask that we take steps to deepen our understanding of the roles we can play in ending systemic racism and that we commit to being intentional in taking actions to do just that.
Dean, College of Education and Human Services