Dear students, faculty, staff, and alumni,
Once again, this past week we are confronted by what Larry Davis calls America’s Grand Challenge—Race and Racism. Davis writes, “Racism has consistently challenged our country’s conceptions of itself as a free and just society, and there is little doubt that racism has been—and continues to be—America’s grand challenge.” The brutal killing of George Floyd is a sad reminder of all others who preceded him. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Freddie Gray. Sandra Bland. Alonzo Smith. Bettie Jones. Janet Wilson. George Mann. Stephon Clark. Michael Lorenzo Dean. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Tragically, many more.
James Baldwin said, “You always told me ‘It takes time.’ It’s taken my father’s time, my mother’s time, my uncle’s time, my brothers’ and my sisters’ time. How much time do you want for your progress?” How much longer must we wait before our black brothers and sisters are allowed to thrive, flourish, and live out their lives?
We as a school must envision our response to a racially just and inclusive society. We must rise and stay resolute in realizing our vision of social solidarity. As I said before, I encourage all of us—students, faculty, and staff—to come together and engage in the mission of creating a community in which our black brothers and sisters can thrive. I also encourage faculty to facilitate conversations on racial justice and racism in our classrooms and hallways. We should take the opportunity to address racial injustice systemically, at every turn and interaction, in the context of our courses, initiatives, and add new facets to our social work curriculum. We will double down on our school’s equity, justice, and inclusion initiative that so many of you are giving leadership to and have invested the last two years building. We will leverage the leadership of alumni, students, staff, and faculty to develop social work curriculum specific for supporting our black communities and disrupting anti-black racism.
Black lives matter. Our graduates have shown leadership working with black communities. They are truly women and men with and for others. I am thinking about our recent distinguished alumni Michael Grinnell, Monique Worrell-Oriola, Josh McNeil, Marvin Toliver, and Jesse Wiltey. There are many more who have just graduated and will be joining them in this work. These recent graduates have been active in our equity, justice, and inclusion initiative and the student collective. They will pave the way, accelerate change, and break new ground.
We cannot wait any longer. This grand challenge of race and racism needs our unwavering attention.
Dean Gautam N. Yadama