April 20, 2021
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
I write to you today in response to the national discussion around the trial of Derek Chauvin and the vicious attacks on Asian Americans. Unfortunately, it is a continuation of a discussion we’ve been having since this past summer (well, actually one we’ve been having for years). That is, our country’s inability to solve systemic inequities, secure justice in the criminal system, and counteract the aggression and fear that people of color must deal with every day.
Now, people are back in the streets because another Black man died needlessly at the hands of a white law enforcement official in a suburb of Minneapolis (ironically enough) and a 13-year-old Latino boy was killed in a police officer shooting in Chicago. Moreover, violence last month against Asian Americans in Atlanta resulted in eight lives lost while hate crimes in general are on the rise. All of this adds to the vulnerability that so many racial, ethnic, and religious minorities feel, as we most recently have seen in the Sikh community in Indianapolis. We mourn for all the victims’ families.
If you remember, not long after the killing of George Floyd, I wrote that structural and cultural racism needs to be confronted head-on for our society to move toward a more prosperous future for all. I argued that for society to change, it is a matter of the public’s willingness to change on matters of race, ethnicity, and the like. In particular, my response – my call to action – was simple but necessary: “do something.”
At UNCG, we’ve been taking action. We launched racialequity.uncg.edu where anti-racism resources, pledges of support from faculty and staff, and lists of events and actions are regularly featured to encourage our campus community and the greater Piedmont Triad community to do something. Our Chancellor’s Fellows for Campus Climate have developed an equity, diversity, and inclusion action framework and actionable goals for our campus to address racial inequality and promote equity, diversity, and inclusion for all individuals and groups that are marginalized. Check out the EDI efforts here and get involved – do something. Our faculty have launched a series of mentorship, success, and leadership development processes to further our commitment to diversity education and training as well as to recruit more diverse faculty.
The UNCG Police Department has also been taking action. Even before last summer, it has embraced the overarching recommendations of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and has worked with students through the Police Student Advisory Council.
I am most proud of our students. They have volunteered and participated in the painting of “One Love” on Davie Street with support from the City of Greensboro. On the racial equity site, student and alumni voices are showcased as they work to make a difference. Through iBelong campus grants, students have led their peers in anti-racism and anti-bias action and education on campus. We each have the power to do something, and I encourage all Spartans – students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends – to get involved.
We cannot change the past, but we can make the future better.
Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr.