Recent tragedies a call for self examination
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:
Racism looms over our nation’s soul.
Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. Three on a seemingly endless list of African American fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, loved ones, and family members, all of whom were killed because they were black.
Each a recent and stark reminder and memorial of the ugliness of historic, systemic inequality.
Each a victim of our country’s severe racial and class disparities.
The COVID‑19 pandemic has laid bare the truth about the unequal access to health care that people of color—specifically African Americans—face. This fact only compounds the current outrage.
We are still so far from achieving the aspirations of racial and social justice.
How do we acknowledge the atrocity and pain of past and recent tragedies? How, especially, do we acknowledge and respond to the ongoing racism suffered by African American students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members when they aren’t treated with the humanity and dignity they deserve?
Given the recent killings and the protests and destruction of the past few days, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. offer a truth worth repeating. In a 1967 speech in which Dr. King referenced the nationwide riots of that summer, he said:
. . . .riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so, in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again.
Black lives matter. Racial violence impacts our WSU family. As an intellectual community committed to learning and seeking truth, we must reflect on our own failures—individually and collectively.
In that spirit, we soon will release a report from an investigation into WSU police arrest rates that illustrates we have much work to do. We, like Bill Gardner, chief of university police, are committed to confronting this issue and will, in dialogue with the WSU community, work toward a just solution.
Change starts with each of us, and we must hold ourselves and each other accountable.
We must consider our own roles in maintaining systemic racism and accepting racial violence, even when it makes us uncomfortable. When our actions are informed by the truth of others, we can move forward, together, courageously and realize the aspirations of racial and social justice. Only then can we begin to create an authentic space from which to proceed.
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President
Incoming Provost and Executive Vice President
Vice President for University Advancement and CEO of the WSU Foundation
Vice President for International Programs
Director of Athletics
Vice President for Academic Outreach and Innovation and Chancellor, Global Campus
Vice President of Health Sciences and Chancellor, WSU Health Sciences Spokane
Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer
Mary Jo Gonzales
Vice President of Student Affairs
Chancellor, WSU Tri‑Cities
Vice President for Research
Vice President for External Affairs and Government Relations
Chancellor, WSU Vancouver
Vice President for Finance and Administration and Chief Financial Officer
Vice President for Information Technology Services and Chief Information Officer
Chancellor, WSU Everett
Vice President for Marketing and Communications