Sustaining Our Support for One Another

June 4, 2020

A message from José Villalba, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, Chief Diversity Officer, and Professor of Counseling

During these times of sorrow, anger, confusion and fear for our country, our community and our University, it is important that we acknowledge that our friends and colleagues are still very much reeling from recent – and repeated – waves of injustice, racism and inequities. African American members of our community in particular are experiencing trauma in very real and pertinent ways right now.

Our African American colleagues in particular are simultaneously balancing their work loads, a national pandemic, and wondering about how the University’s next steps for the fall and beyond will impact their day-to-day lives. These experiences are compounded by a society that once again has made black people fear for their lives. Black caregivers wonder how many more times they will have to have a talk with their children about how to and not to engage with law enforcement, and black trans folk are feeling scared that they will be uniquely targeted as being “less than.”

Because some in our community have reached out to ask me what they should “say” or “do,” I am sharing with you what I have shared with them.

  • Reflect on why you want to share your care with your African American colleagues, as well as why the events that have transpired lately should matter to you as an individual.
  • Use your reflections as starting points when deciding how to offer your support, focusing on your colleagues’ experiences, pain and discomfort rather than yours.
  • Statements of support should be followed by actions including one’s self-education on anti-racism and the perpetuation of structural oppression, joining with local organizations that work towards a more equitable community, and minimizing the prevalence of health disparities (to name a few).

If you want to get a sense of what your African American colleagues in particular might be experiencing at this moment, consider reading, “Maintaining Professionalism In the Age of Black Death Is … A Lot” and, “Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay, Chances Are They Are Not.”

People with good intentions and differing levels of knowledge are trying to help their colleagues, students and neighbors. Many in our community, through social media, phone calls and emails, have said to our African American community members: “I see you;” “I’m sorry;” “Let me know how to help.” May these statements of empathy lead to sustained actions and expressions of love and support, both on this campus and throughout our nation.

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José A. Villalba, Ph.D., LCMHC
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer
Professor of Counseling