VCU School of Education Statement on addressing systemic racism
This article originally appeared on the School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University website and is reprinted with permission.
The VCU School of Education wishes to express our solidarity with the recent anti-racist protests and efforts to eradicate structural and systemic racism that began after the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police officers. His murder is not just a recent upsetting event, as so many other incidents come to mind: Amy Cooper in New York calling the police with false allegations regarding a black man; Ahmad Aubrey who was shot to death by Gregory and Travis McMichael; Breonna Taylor who was killed by police raiding her home; Eric Garner, and on and on and on. These incidents, and many more, are part of a pattern of ongoing, systemic, racist behavior against black people in this country since the beginning of slavery. Additionally, efforts to eradicate structural and systemic racism must continue. The grief that people of color are experiencing goes well beyond these recent events but is historical grief, exacerbated by these events.
We will support this movement with not just words, but actions.
As a school of education, we play an important role in preparing educators (teachers, school counselors, school leaders and other professionals) who will work with our citizens from early childhood through adulthood. We must ensure that these educators understand this history. We must ensure that these educators understand America’s history and the structural systems that uphold racism. We must ensure that that our educators are aware of their own implicit biases, white fragility, racial innocence and colorblindness, and how these influence their actions, responses and interactions. We must ensure that our educators are prepared for meaningful conversation and teachable moments on race and racism. We must ensure that our graduates are prepared to support the educational excellence and equity for all schoolchildren, which obviously includes our students of color.
As a school of education, we prepare researchers whose research will help explain, understand and solve critical problems facing our society. This research also informs policy. We must ensure that our researchers understand the racial context when working with underrepresented populations. We must ensure that they are intentional about staffing their grants with underrepresented minority doctoral students and post-docs.
As a school of education, we are not going to prepare successful educators who can have a positive impact in all communities unless we do more to help them understand and challenge the underlying structures that uphold racism in this country. We have to prepare anti-racist educators, leaders and professionals.
As a school of education, we are committing to the following actions in the upcoming year to address these issues:
- We will continue to work toward better understanding implicit and institutional bias along with white fragility while we provide the opportunities for our school’s leadership to become anti-racist leaders.
- Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee will provide training and learning opportunities for our faculty and staff on these issues. Additional funding will be provided to increase these opportunities.
- We will work to amplify the voice of underrepresented minorities and all students, by continuing our student forums and town halls where students have the opportunity to meet directly with the dean regarding the great things that our faculty and staff are doing and also the areas of growth.
- We will invest in the continued growth of our Holmes Scholars Program, which is a mentorship program for underrepresented minority doctoral students. The current scholars are working toward creating a space for support and mentorship to our underrepresented minority students.
- We will continue the work needed to ensure that we have diverse pools of strong candidates in all of our searches to afford the best opportunities to further diversify our faculty, in particular, and our staff.
- We will work toward rooting out and addressing implicit and institutional biases that exist in our school through processes that are currently in existence related to GA assignments, evaluation processes, searches, salary inequities, etc.
- We will support the work of the Minority Education Recruitment, Retention and Equity Center (MERREC), which is currently grant funded, and pledge to have a plan for this center to be sustained within the school when their funding ends.
- We will create a portal for students and staff to submit their concerns and recommendations related to this issue and others to ensure their voice is heard.
As Robin DiAngelo unpacks in her book, White Fragility, “racism is a system, not an event, and none of us are exempt of its forces” and we need to examine how we all uphold this in our society—and start taking the necessary actions for change.
In closing, BLACK LIVES MATTER.