Dear Tuskegee Community,
For the first time since the racial demonstrations of the 1960s, we are witnessing sustained world-wide protests demanding an end to systemic racism, abuse by law enforcement, economic equality and injustices, and lethal health disparities – all fueled by the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and the senseless murders of mostly young Black men -- George Floyd,
Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Tony McDade, Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor and… countless others who have gone unnamed and unnoticed.
Closer to home, we watched with shock and dismay as two Morehouse and Spelman College students were assaulted by six police officers. Most recently, a cross burning occurred on an overpass near I-85, only miles from the Tuskegee campus; another reminder of the many symbols of racism in our country.
Exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence continue to be the essential elements of systematic racism and oppression – which have disproportionately destroyed Black communities and caused generational trauma and alienation. This generation is facing an imminent threat.
As the noted author and pubic intellectual James Baldwin said, “
to be Black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage
.” Evidence of anger, rage, and despair has been in full display on the faces of protestors for more than three weeks. If you are like me and many others, I can say from the depth of my heart that I am tired -- tired of mourning the deaths of young people of color. I am tired of watching orchestrated assaults on black and brown people and the allies who support them. I am equally tired of the excuses, explanations, and platitudes. Unfortunately, these protests will not end the cycle of violence perpetuated on young people demanding their rightful place in society. We must continue to advocate for systemic change. While we are tired, we cannot be daunted by the numerous miscarriages of justice.
I want you to know that you are not alone. We have been here before working in solidarity – supporting and applauding your activism and advocacy. I believe in our students as our leaders who will bring about the change that we have been waiting for. Your intelligence, commitment and passion reflect leadership that will change the world. America needs to hear your voices. I have established a separate communication channel,
to update you weekly on what Tuskegee is doing and how you can get involved.
The Fall Semester starts in 6 weeks. We will plan on continued discussion, dialogue, action, learning, and advocacy when you return to campus in the fall. We also want to give you space to reflect on the topics of diversity, bias and violence.
So, stay tuned. Know that we are here and thinking about you, your health and how we can be advocates for justice and change together.
Lily D. McNair, Ph.D.