Responding to Racism: A Discussion Together

Dear Colleagues

Scott Blair, NCC Chief Diversity Officer,

President Erickson's earlier note to faculty and staff regarding the death of George Floyd, and the events that have followed, struck a chord with so many in our community. Events of the last week out of Minnesota, and previously in Georgia, Louisville and across the country have deeply affected all of us, but especially our colleagues and students of color here and across the country. It’s a reminder that even in the midst of a global pandemic, racism and the structural racism in the world around us, does not rest.

A recent article penned by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar states: “I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But, African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. 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. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.”

That vigilance starts now. The responsibility is on all of us, but especially those in positions of influence and privilege, to deconstruct these systemic barriers that have for too long, created deep divides in our communities simply because of the color of our skin and other identities such as gender, country of origin and religion, to name a few.

When I have joined my diversity colleagues in conversation over the years, those senior to the work have often shared that the conversations they had when they entered the field 30+ years ago, unfortunately have not changed much. These narratives further reinforce the message that Abdul-Jabbar states and the need for action now. As your Chief Diversity Officer, I believe it is my responsibility to share these words and to help us move through these difficult times together. I invite you to join me later this week, where I will host a ZOOM discussion to provide some recommendations, but most importantly, provide a space for us to come together as colleagues to process and support one another during this time. These ZOOM discussions will continue over the next couple of weeks as well to give us the space to process together and discuss action moving forward. Be well and safe.