Dean Daire: Reflections on recent events
I am sure you are all aware of the recent incidents: George Floyd being brutally murdered by Minneapolis police officers; Amy Cooper in New York calling the police with false allegations regarding a black man who asked her to leash her dogs, in accordance to the park rules; 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. For many, these are just recent events that are quite upsetting. It is important, however, to fully recognize and appreciate that these are not just recent events. These are part of a pattern of ongoing behavior in this country since the beginning of slavery. This is an important consideration because the grief that people of color experience goes well beyond these recent events but is historical grief, exacerbated by these events.
As a school of education, our vision statement calls us to be leaders in responsive, needs-driven and research based educational practices to transform the lives of those in our communities, especially those who have been historically marginalized. Our mission statement calls us to advance learning and knowledge to create progressive change. And, our values include being innovative, inclusive, community-focused and collaborative. We pride ourselves on working hard towards diversity, equity and inclusion. However, in light of everything that is happening in our society today, I challenge us to think if we can truly accomplish the desired change without challenging the underlying structures that uphold racism in this country.
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 uphold this in our society. The School of Education has an outstanding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee that held a retreat yesterday evaluating this year and planning for next year. I was excited to express my full commitment to their continued efforts. Our Office of Strategic Engagement is rolling out a Becoming an Antiracist Educator professional development series for educators in our community and for our faculty and students. I will continue to say that we need to be first responders running towards the hottest fires towards meaningful change in how we prepare educators and other professionals, in how we conduct research and professional service, and in the impact of our research and our professional service. Through critical reflection, self-interrogation, and self-evaluation, we have to challenge the underlying structures and our complicities that uphold racism and white superiority including notions of what DiAngelo identifies as ‘racial innocence’ and other forms of 'weaponized denial'.
Our School of Education graduates have to be leaders in this area. We have the commitment and values system to do the work that will lead to the change in our society. However, we have to begin with ourselves. Although we are in academia, this is not an academic exercise. It is a personal exercise that will be complemented by our academic exercises. We will continue to lean into diversity, equity, and inclusion along with examining and addressing racism, implicit and institutional bias, white superiority and white fragility. I am excited about the work taking place within our school, our resolve and our commitment.
This year has not been a regular year due to COVID19 and we, unfortunately, will require continued patience from members of our institution during the summer and our upcoming fall semester. However, our efforts towards becoming antiracists cannot be put on hold. This work is too important.
I would like to close with two recommendations: Please take a look at Robin DiAngelo’s YouTube presentation on her book White Fragility - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45ey4jgoxeU; and please review this list of 40+ books for anti-racist teachers.
Andrew P. Daire, Ph.D.
Dean & Professor, School of Education