Supporting Black Members of Our Campus Community
“All our silences in the face of racist assault are acts of complicity.” - bell hooks
As leaders of color within the Northwestern community, we write to express our categorical condemnation of the killing of yet another unarmed, defenseless black man in the hands of police officers. The senseless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis may have sparked the civil unrest we are experiencing across our nation, but it is part of a history of injustice that has persisted over generations. Black people in the U.S. are disproportionately killed by police, and data suggests that police officers are rarely held accountable. Though their deaths were not captured by viscerally disturbing video footage, we also mourn and say the names of others, including Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman who was shot and killed by police in her sleep on March 13 in Louisville, and Tony McDade, a 38-year-old black trans man who was shot and killed by police in Tallahassee just last week.
We all benefit from standing firmly together on the side of justice, not only for George Floyd and against his killers, but for all black people victimized by racism in its many forms. The violent devaluing of black life is the “center” of this moment, yet this hard truth is often erased from the prevailing narrative. As parents of black and Latinx children, we each live with the threat that our families are vulnerable to becoming the next center of this ever-widening, vicious cycle of unchecked police brutality.
In this spirit, we address you jointly as a queer black woman and a Latinx man, as colleagues of color, and as leaders who have the privilege of working on behalf of our campus community. We have heard from many of you about your feelings of anguish and indignation, feelings which we share. We are reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s belief that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Make no mistake, no one is immune from — nor insulated against — the indignities of oppression and officially sanctioned brutality. Members of our community at all levels are already on the front lines of this fight against injustice: exercising our rights of free speech and reporting in the free press, which is now under siege; and investigating and researching cures and therapies — literal and figurative — for the health pandemic, the mental health fallout, and the economic losses that are disproportionately impacting black, Latinx, Asian, and native and indigenous people.
We stand in solidarity with each of our black colleagues and students at Northwestern and black people suffering in communities beyond the University. All institutions must play a role in paving a path for full, equitable participation in society and the protection of human rights. Because Northwestern is committed to excellent teaching, innovative research, and the personal and intellectual growth of its students in a diverse academic community, we invite each of you to deepen your knowledge of, and responses to, historical and contemporary injustices and inequality. Only then — and together — can we overcome the vestiges of injustice in our society. The first steps in our collective path toward creating the world we all deserve include openly recognizing and addressing our areas for growth: as individuals, as a university, as a country, and as global citizens.
We must also acknowledge that some in our community need an opportunity to heal from yet another blow to their humanity. To those in our community who have the privilege of leading individuals, courses, and teams, we strongly encourage you to reach out with compassion to individuals under your supervision and in your classes and labs, especially to our black-identified colleagues and students. You may not realize the powerful, generative effect of empathy and the genuine impact of simply asking how someone is feeling and how you can offer your tangible support in moments of distress.
We remind you that our Employee Assistance Program, the Faculty Wellness Program, CAPS, Campus Inclusion and Community, Multicultural Student Affairs, the Women’s Center, the Black Professionals Network, Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion staff affinity groups and a host of diversity and equity inclusion units throughout the campus are available to staff, faculty and students at all times. Though we know the broader institutional work of access, equity, inclusion and belonging continues.
To our black colleagues and students, we stand with you. As we move forward, we remain your advocates in the implementation of policies, practices, and ways of being that ensure Northwestern will be a safer, equitable, and just community for our black staff, faculty, students, and administrators — and we will continue working hard to leverage your insights and your ideas to further center this ideal as the core of your Northwestern experience.