Dear COE Community –
We are living in historic times in so many ways. Particular events in the past 30 days have etched a place in history that is sorrowful and crushing. As your dean and as a fellow human being, I want each of you to know that I stand in anguish with you and acknowledge the deep and seemingly unbearable pain that is being felt by people of color in the College of Education community and across our nation.
The Black community has long experienced racism and police brutality, and this was evident in full, horrific view this past week, when George Floyd was murdered by a police officer as fellow officers participated and stood by. “When you see that in front of witnesses, the agent of the state will kneel on a man’s neck as he’s begging for his life until the life seeps out of his body … You can’t just picture that happening to white Americans” observed Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. Further accentuating and explaining the racism and systemic anti-black hatred underlying this horrendous act of police brutality, Barack Obama quoted an African-American businessman who stated, “The ‘knee on the neck’ is a metaphor for how the system so cavalierly holds black folks down, ignoring the cries for help.”
Elaborating on the death of George Floyd, Obama noted that this “shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America. It can’t be ‘normal.’ If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better.” Obama went on to state that “it falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station … to work together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.”
Since the death of George Floyd, the ongoing pandemic of systemic racism in our culture has become glaringly obvious to many around the world. It must be confronted. At the same time, the current COVID-19 pandemic is also revealing long standing structural inequalities. People of color are dying disproportionately, working in essential virus-exposing jobs, losing jobs, or having pay reduced at alarming rates. As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar observed, “Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible—even if you’re choking on it—until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere.”
Within the State University System, Board of Governor’s Chair Kitson called for “everyone to examine the inequities in our society, recognize the conditions that have created those inequities, and work to repair the racial divide and restore equal justice for all Americans.” Likewise, here at UF, President Fuchs urged the UF community to consider how we can effect positive change and to listen to those affected by racism and violence. He encouraged us all to reflect on our biases and to learn about racial injustice. I am committed to this ongoing, introspective process.
The UF College of Education is an exceptional community of caring and talented students, faculty, and staff. I encourage all of us to consider how we can contribute to the solution by combatting racism, inequities, and brutalities against people of color and other marginalized populations. Many suggestions have been circulating about how to do this. The Allyship and Supporting Minoritized Faculty, Staff and Students of Color ad hoc committee of the Faculty Policy Council has developed and disseminated recommended resources. Additionally, several articles below outline steps one can take, including but not limited to educating oneself by listening to and uplifting the voices of the most marginalized individuals, confronting one’s own internalized racism and advantages of White privilege, protesting, providing funds to relevant organizations, advocating for police reform, and getting involved locally. I also encourage ongoing sharing among our faculty and staff of ways that we are working to effect change. Let’s not just make this a one-time or short-lived initiative, but rather one that we embrace and carry forward until there are no longer such systemic inequities and police brutality destroying people’s lives. In addition to these suggestions, I also call on our college to ensure that our exceptional innovations in research and teaching help prepare multiculturally mindful, equity-focused educational professionals who will further advance educational equity and the lives of black children and all children of color. Together we will forge an equitable, healthy, and educated society!