Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:
Racism looms over our nation’s soul.
Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. Three on a seemingly endless list of African American fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, loved ones, and family members, all of whom were killed because they were black.
Each a recent and stark reminder and memorial of the ugliness of historic, systemic inequality.
Each a victim of our country’s severe racial and class disparities.
The COVID‑19 pandemic has laid bare the truth about the unequal access to health care that people of color—specifically African Americans—face. This fact only compounds the current outrage.
We are still so far from achieving the aspirations of racial and social justice.
How do we acknowledge the atrocity and pain of past and recent tragedies? How, especially, do we acknowledge and respond to the ongoing racism suffered by African American students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members when they aren’t treated with the humanity and dignity they deserve?
Given the recent killings and the protests and destruction of the past few days, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. offer a truth worth repeating. In a 1967 speech in which Dr. King referenced the nationwide riots of that summer, he said:
Black lives matter. Racial violence impacts our WSU family. As an intellectual community committed to learning and seeking truth, we must reflect on our own failures—individually and collectively.
In that spirit, we soon will release a report from an investigation into WSU police arrest rates that illustrates we have much work to do. We, like Bill Gardner, chief of university police, are committed to confronting this issue and will, in dialogue with the WSU community, work toward a just solution.
Change starts with each of us, and we must hold ourselves and each other accountable.
We must consider our own roles in maintaining systemic racism and accepting racial violence, even when it makes us uncomfortable. When our actions are informed by the truth of others, we can move forward, together, courageously and realize the aspirations of racial and social justice. Only then can we begin to create an authentic space from which to proceed.
Mary Jo Gonzales