We Stand Committed

We Stand Committed

In a 2014 special report focused on improving outcomes for men of color in community colleges, the Center encouraged readers to acknowledge that systematic disparities in opportunity and privilege characterize the lives—and educational experiences—of people of color in American society. The displays of horrific injustice that we have witnessed for the last several weeks have illuminated these systematic disparities in ways that cannot and should not be ignored. So many are doing courageous work right now to battle these injustices, and we commend them.

We know we have work to do as well.

For years, the Center has shared insights that matter around topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We remain committed to sharing insights around the student voice, including the voices of students who have been historically underserved and underrepresented in higher education. We are also committed to supporting community colleges across the country as they continue the vital work of providing opportunity for every student who walks through their doors.

A Message From College of Education Dean Charles Martinez and Associate Dean for Equity, Community Engagement, and Outreach Richard Reddick

As part of the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin, the Center stands determined with our college’s leadership.

 

Dear College of Education Community,

We are still reeling from a challenging and unsettling spring semester that has required a monumental response from all of us to deal with the disruption brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic. As the effects of the pandemic on the U.S. public health became clearer, our society also has had to reckon with the reality that patterns of infection and health outcomes of the pandemic echo longstanding health inequities that persistently impact economically disadvantaged communities and people of color.     

On the heels of this, we have just witnessed the senseless killing of another Black man, George Floyd, by those whose roles are to protect and serve. During this trying period, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and here in Austin, Mike Ramos, were also killed in interactions with law enforcement; Ahmaud Arbery was killed by those purporting to uphold the law. In another racially charged incident, Christian Cooper’s interaction with a White woman in a park resulted in the weaponization of his identity.

Many of us feel overwhelming sadness, righteous anger, dismay, and disgust right now. Others of us, so drained by recent challenges, may be feeling numb and disengaged. For many members of our community who have had to confront racism, discrimination, and other forms of hateful rhetoric and acts on a routine basis, the pain they feel today is nothing new. The racial underpinnings and social injustice so obvious in these specific events are not the sole exemplars of the challenges we face together. Rather, these situations are merely representative of injustices that are long-standing in our communities.

As educators and lifelong learners, we are charged with the responsibility to explain to young people and community members how the lives of George Floyd, and so many others, came to an end wrongly and violently. Yet, we are all left with an unsatisfactory explanation of how racism, unconscious bias, and systemic oppression leave members of our community with limited opportunity, up to and including their lives.

There is no right way to mourn or reflect on this moment. As grief, anger, and numbness move through us, we hope that you give all of these feelings standing. Although the issues we face have sharpened political rhetoric, it is not a political act to support each other, to offer kind words, to listen, and to engage one another in thoughtful dialogue. We heal and grow from here by strengthening our connections to each other.

There will be a time for us to plan, strategize, and respond together as a community. Although it’s tempting to offer prescriptions, quick fixes, or grand gestures right now, we know that seeding lasting change starts when we acknowledge the reality of the circumstances, and then maintain relentless focus on exposing social injustice and eliminating sources of inequity. That work lies ahead.

Our grief and anger must move alongside another strong emotion: determination. In the face of our most difficult challenges as human beings, determination has been central to our ability to endure, to heal, and to thrive despite it all. Determination is a commitment. It requires action. It holds our feet to the fire in igniting change. As echoed in today’s message from UT’s new interim president, Jay Hartzell, we will not shy away from our responsibility to take on the most important and difficult issues of our time.

Our work together is more urgent than ever. And it can only be accomplished by building a tidal wave of momentum. We all have an opportunity, and obligation, to lead where we stand. We stand determined, and we stand for Black lives.

 

With caring,

Charles

CHARLES R. MARTINEZ, JR. | Dean and Professor
The University of Texas at Austin | College of Education

Rich

RICHARD J. REDDICK (pronouns he/him/his) | Associate Dean for Equity, Community Engagement, and Outreach
The University of Texas at Austin | College of Education