Black out Wednesday: Tips for today and beyond

Dr. Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh,
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion

June 10, 2020

Dear Colleagues:

Below, please find recommendations for Black Out Wednesday. Since we are a community that values knowledge production and lifelong learning, I recommend that we use the time to become more informed, and also to act in appropriately courageous ways. Begin with the questions and tips below:

What do we know about anti-blackness and anti-racism? How are we complicit in perpetuating it? What work are we doing ourselves (rather than asking others to do it for us) to find, read or listen, reflect on and put into practice the tenants of anti-black racism?

TIP: One of our campus strategy groups focuses specifically on anti-racist work. For additional information about this group, based on the excellent example as well as leadership of Native Strategies, please be in touch with our own AVP, Dr. Lesley-Anne Pittard (lpittard@uoregon.edu).

What do we know about the numbers and percentages of black students, faculty and staff in our respective School or College and Department? How do the data compare with the percentage of state and national black college- going population?

TIP: If there is no one who is Black in your department, school or college, the first order of business is to address that problem. In doing that, avoid the temptation to opine about how difficult it is to “find qualified” black students, faculty or staff. Do what you can do to make a change in your area of influence.

What do we know about our students, staff and faculty who are Black? How have we acted with empathy to find out how they are “really” doing (in the guise of mental health, academic success, work performance, family life, community care, belonging, feeling valued)?

TIP: Reflective inquiries of this sort require relationship building at the individual level as well as processes at the unit and institutional level. We need to interrogate and change our own respective individual behavior(s) as well as the processes in our units to ensure that we are actually caring for black people as part of our daily routines.

Focusing our work on black people—against whom the full weight of societal oppression and scorn has historically been placed—may seem inequitable. It is not. With enough practice and intentionality, you will overcome the discomfort. A focus on anti-blackness, including building empathy for Black people, will not only improve their conditions, but also create a warmer and more inclusively excellent climate for all.

My colleagues and I — in DEI — work daily on inclusion, equity and diversity, and we are taking some time today to reflect on how we can work more deliberately and courageously in the service of anti-blackness as well (while also supporting our students). We thank you very much for joining us.

Indeed, Black. Lives. Matter.

Yvette Alex-Assensoh, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion

(https://www.shutdownstem.com)

Editor’s Note: This letter is republished from the VPEI website: https://inclusion.uoregon.edu/black-out-wednesday