Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
BLACK LIVES MATTER.
The college received a petition from our students today, urging us to make a stronger statement. Your message is powerful, and your feedback is appropriate. We agree with you, and we are taking action.
As a Black woman leading an Office of Inclusion, I not only feel the pain of the centuries of brutality and murder of Black bodies, I also feel the exhaustion and hopelessness of continuing the journey and fight against white supremacy and racism. Unfortunately, racism is embedded in the fabric of our society, therefore the fight must be constant, not just reactionary to the most recent Black life taken.
Over the last few days, you have received any number of messages from the institutions you are a part of in response to the national dialogue around police brutality and the movement for Black lives. We recognize that these conversations are difficult, sensitive and personal. Most importantly, they are necessary. To be frank, it has been immeasurably difficult to continue to have to address these injustices as Black professionals. However, we know that many of you look to the Office of Inclusion as the first line of response in times like this. Out of concern we rushed to send responses last Friday and again on Monday. Now, as we hear your concerns, we apologize for not meeting your needs sooner. Again, we are thankful that you have shown us, clearly, what is required.
The last few weeks have been very difficult for many of us within the HCOM family, but especially our Black students, faculty and staff; in addition to struggling through a global pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black and brown people, the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and more recently, Desmond Franklin, have once again thrust the conversation about race and injustice to the forefront of the media. That means a constant barrage of images and videos of unarmed Black people dying on a 24-hour repeat on national television and unending commentary on social media. As painful as it can be to watch even once, we know that the constant barrage of these images and the social and media commentary surrounding them are often forms of trauma. The Office of Inclusion is here to support any student, staff or faculty facing trauma as a result of not only incidents of police brutality but also the national dialogue it creates.
Approaching these topics often re-ignites tensions between groups and leaves those most impacted by the consequences of racism with little energy. We have said it before, but we as an institution must all lean into the discomfort of discussing issues of inequity – fighting against racism and white supremacy is not the responsibility of Black people or people of color alone. White allies must unburden their fellow humans from the labor of liberation.
The Office of Inclusion is working to quickly develop and implement programming that will accomplish the following:
- Create a space that prioritizes and centers Black voices to come together to discuss their collective healing
- Provide an opportunity for all students, faculty and staff to have an informal, but structured conversation about recent events
- Teach the basics of allyship and having difficult conversations
Lastly, we wanted to provide some tangible steps that you can take to help mobilize.
As always, please continue to take care of one another and remember:
“Revolution is not a one-time event.” – Audre Lorde
Tanisha King-Taylor, Ph.D.
Heritage College Chief Inclusion Officer