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Living Race—Transforming Community

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June 1, 2020


Dear Villanova Community Members,

As the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) at Villanova University, we write today to recognize the pain, despair and outrage we see being expressed across the United States, triggered by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In addition, over the past several weeks, the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, have brought the reality of living race in America into sharp focus. And yet, the focused picture we see too often depends on our own race. 

In these days of COVID-19, though, we are surrounded by talk of illness or death, as a nation, we were stunned and repelled by the graphic racial violence happening in America. “How could this happen?,” news anchors ask rhetorically. “What is it that the protestors want?” We believe it is important to take a moment to understand what we see as the root issue: living race in America. Living as a Black person in America is living with the constant uncertainty of your own destiny: living a life out of your control. One doesn’t need to dig deeply into the literature of Sociology or Psychology to know this statement is true. Find a Black friend and ask. In that honest conversation, be prepared to hear about how a simple shopping trip can be disrupted with aggressive security guards’ accusations of wrongdoing. Or how Black mothers fear for the safety of their sons every time they go out. Or how, at work, laughing at jokes that aren’t funny and answering personal questions that are no one’s business is just what you have to do.

Added together, these kinds of experiences are significant. In addition to maintaining the expectations of living their daily lives, Black people carry the weight of racial judgements, microaggressions and even physical violence. These observations lead us to understand that living race is not merely dealing with the individual racist person or incident. Rather, it is coping with sets of expectations and practices so deeply engrained in our culture that those who benefit from them may not even recognize their limiting impacts on communities of color.

As an office, ODEI works to address issues of equity and injustice throughout our community. As a community, we don’t always get it right and we need to do better. Our office is a resource for all members of the Villanova community with a special focus on those whose minoritized identity makes them underrepresented at Villanova. We work hard to create a living-learning environment that is open and caring. Our goal is to earn your trust. We are ready to listen. We’ve heard your concerns and we value your insights. During the summer, ODEI is open for business. We will be sponsoring dialogues, workshops and classes you might find interesting. Join us.

James Baldwin once wrote “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” As a community, we cannot resolve the nation’s problems, but we can at least face our own. Communities are created on a foundation of shared understanding and trust. We need you to join us.

Sincerely,

Teresa A. Nance, PhD, Associate Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer
Alex Iannucci, EdD, Director of Strategic Initiatives
Ariella Robbins, Training Manager
Sheryl P. Bowen, PhD, Director of Intergroup Dialogue
Alberta Parsons, Administrative Assistant