I have struggled with what to write this week that would not sound like the same message I sent last week. I have wondered if you need to be hearing from me at all right now and how I can work to pull other voices into the weekly emails. While I'm working on ways to do that, I have also been asking myself how I can be a better ally to the Black students, faculty, and staff in our community.
Last week the CNS Diversity and Inclusion Committee suggested spending time in self-reflection, reading, and educating yourself about racism. If you are looking for suggestions there are many good lists like this one from the New York Times or this list from the Texas Book Festival. Personally, I have been reading a book that was suggested to me by a colleague in the fall called White Rage. I will confess that it is taking me a long time to get through the book because the truth is that what the book presents is painful and uncomfortable. It talks about how each time civil rights made an advance in America's history, it was met with backlash, via policy, laws, and outright violence to Black citizens.
Reading and reflecting are important, and so is putting that knowledge to work. I already see how I can take some of the information in the book and apply it today as an ally: I now know to be watchful and vocal for ways in which the systems around me will work to undo the progress made by the activism we see right now. My hope is that many systems will improve, yet history shows us a different story. So I invite you to pay more attention too, and keep pursuing the hard work of change for the long haul because systems don't change overnight.
Dr. Vanden Bout