Looking back and looking forward

Dear colleagues,

As we approach May 25th tomorrow, we remember a year ago, when George Floyd was murdered and the world witnessed the racism and violence that have so long and so fully infected our nation. Since then, we have responded in public demonstrations, in private conversations and self-reflection, and in concerted efforts to change long-standing insidious underpinnings and vestiges of racism. This past year has shown us both the depths of the problems and glimmers of hope for a better future. We have seen the possibility of police being held accountable and of individuals coming together to demand change. And we have seen how far we are from actual justice or resolution on the underlying problems.

As a school of social work, this past year has also reinforced our responsibility to step up as leaders in the fight for racial justice. The school has a long-standing focus on race, and over the past year we have come together to face our own struggles and build a school-wide commitment to anti-racism and anti-oppression. This requires that we critically reflect on ourselves and how our unique combinations of privilege and oppression come together to form our identities and experiences; and how these identities and experiences, in turn, create various capacities and roles for each of us in the work we need to do. This past year has reinforced and solidified the necessity for all of us to step up to do our part -- to lead, to facilitate, and to actively work in every dimension of our lives for justice, equity, and inclusion.

Our Commitment to Anti-Racism has been a critical part of this year’s self-reflection and actions. As a school, we have begun this focused process by making space for learning, sharing, and reflection. We have now come together to develop and approve a plan of action that will guide our efforts, center anti-racism, recognize intersectionality, and demand accountability as we move forward. This is difficult work, it is critical work, and it is absolutely necessary that we ensure its centrality to who we are and all that we do.

As we look back at the past year and look forward to the time ahead, each of us will see it through our own lens that is influenced by our identities, positionality, and experiences. Recognizing this diversity of who we are and what we bring is part of our strength in moving forward. We have begun the work of stepping out of our comfort zones and established practices to critically evaluate what we’re doing, what we need to do, and what we must confront. Racism and oppression continue because they are “normal” in our society – we must continue to build our critical awareness, approaches, policies, and practices to dismantle the problems and create an anti-racist, anti-oppressive, inclusive, and welcoming school, university, community, and society.

Please take care of yourselves and each other as we work through this one-year mark. Thank you for being a part of what we have done. I look forward to joining with you all in the challenging and essential work that lies ahead. If not us, who? If not now, when?

In unity,