To our College of Education community,
The murder of George Floyd is a reprehensible action of racism. The history of white supremacy in our nation continues to fuel hatred and acts of violence against people of color, especially Black individuals and communities. The horrific events that have occurred over the past months and years…especially Floyd’s murder…produce trauma, loss, grief, and anger. Many of you may have Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) children, siblings, or other relatives who you fear for their safety. Many are also parents or grandparents or guardians whose fears for your children’s lives and their safety have been heightened again. There are no words that I can use to express how frightened, angry and outraged I am. I do know that the work that we do in the college makes a difference. Our faculty and staff in the College of Education are committed to making a difference and to helping our students become educators who will transform the lives of ALL children. We have a huge responsibility to embody and cultivate commitments to access, equity, diversity, and justice. We are up to the challenge.
Today, I am committing our College to anti-racist action, and to countering anti-Blackness, in all that we do. It will require the dedication of our faculty, staff, and students to engage in our work through a different lens. It might start by seeking out and learning from the good work already being done in this area by a number of our colleagues in the College, as well as identifying what else may be needed. In addition, it means for those of us who are white and privileged we must engage ourselves in learning and understanding continuously regarding the issues of racism and the acts of violence and inequities targeted at Black individuals and communities. I am personally committed to seek and engage in reading current research (by our faculty and others) and taking the responsibility to participate in on-going professional development that directly address these issues and continues my education and understanding.
What we do in the coming days, weeks, and months will be critical. While the criminal justice system and the larger legal system will undergo extraordinary scrutiny, the field of education will also be called into account. We educate the individuals who educate the future. Our students teach, counsel, and lead future police, jurors, policymakers, attorneys, teachers, and neighbors. Unless we decide to take up our work in meaningful, tangible, and transformative ways, we risk contributing to the perpetuation of anti-Blackness and other forms of racism, rather than challenging them. Our responsibility is huge. It includes holding high expectations for our graduate and undergraduate students to meet opportunities to engage in this work - a fundamental element of our commitment to equity and justice - with a positive mindset and critical consciousness. Let’s move forward with dedication and resolve. Together, we can do this.
Jon E. Pedersen