Uncertainty is a fundamental teaching tool these days; for example, Covid19 struck mid-semester and all classes went remote fairly swiftly! Yet not necessarily that smoothly. While this was a huge learning curve for many instructors and students, our administrators did the best they could providing guidance and advice. Not only that, the powerful social unrest is another wake-up call to our nation and the world. It’s not a time for platitudes or directives like “We need to listen to each other.” Unquestionably, listening to each other is important. I have been listening, you bet, as well as observing, reading, writing, watching and personally and professionally experiencing a deep and profound transformation. I’ve read agency statement after statement and we started to see organizations move from “we stand in solidarity” to “here’s what we can commit to.” That’s crucial because, as I’ve discussed with my colleagues, statements mean nothing without actions and accountability behind the words. We are all inundated with “statements” which are valued, yes; however, please keep digging below the tip of the iceberg to address the root of our social ills and dismantle structural constraints that prevent continued progress.
Inequities perpetuate oppression, hatred and fear; we have entered another tipping point in society. People of color are angry and on edge; white people don’t know what to do or how to think. What we are immersed in is urgent. Not only a call for (more) action but also cry for help from a government that has turned its back for too long. My emotions flow from tears, pain, and rage and are eventually channeled into hope, promise, and opportunity. Although true, this work is exhausting as people keep saying “we’ve been here before and little or nothing changes.” Change comes in many forms and we all need to share a beat, be an ambassador of that change, preserve dreams, and save lives in the process.
As we strive to find peace with so much that is not within our control, I have been feeling a seismic shift in our cultural mores. Yet we cannot become complacent; we must embrace our values and push forward because our communities are resilient and must have the requisite resources to be sustained. And, there comes a time when students realize they have the power to focus on what they can control. For instance, their attitudes and behaviors, their reactions to injustice, and how they support each other. You can see it in their actions and, whether as their mentor, teacher, coach, etc. you know that somehow their intellect and their spirit are swinging high and strong.
How do we mitigate the chaos, accept differences, elevate not exclude people of color, and value one another as human beings with so many iterations and complex layers? That may seem futile when so many are outraged, broken, and denied fundamental rights. You are a significant part of our community, whether near or far, and we value you and support your healing. We need our faculty, staff, and community partners so we remain ready for our students who will need all of us. Together, we can break the systemic cycle and reset the proverbial table we all talk about (e.g., the “who’s at the table, who’s not?” phrase is key yet we need a new place setting). Higher education has a unique role to play and every pillar of concern from disparate health and economic impacts to housing inequity and environmental justice is valid. We cannot fall short or be silent.
We know that on a campus longing for connection, ICCE is also needed; we are here for you. Life is difficult for each of us in some capacity. Tell us your story. Amidst this new reality, we must all maintain our sense of community—in whatever way that is manifested—on campus and off. This is a new time to learn, educate ourselves, understand our role in supporting the structures that continually traumatize Blacks, Indigenous communities and other people of color, and to act. ICCE supports the Black Lives Matter movement. One of the most important is to remember your vote is your microphone! #GETOUT&VOTE to protect our democracy and help right this sinking ship. We can make a difference; change is inevitable.
Be brave, be bold, be a warrior-
Nina S. Roberts, Ph.D.
Faculty Director of Community Engaged Scholarship & Learning
SF State, Institute for Civic & Community Engagement