I hope we have the courage to have a conversation that we, as a nation, have never had

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By Carla Kimbrough, VCCS Diversity and Strategic Recruitment Manager

I weep.

Not just because I – like many of you – witnessed the murder of George Floyd. I weep for the many thousands upon thousands of black people who have been killed simply because of the color of their skin. I weep for all the black children, including my own, who face a dangerous future. I weep in sorrow. I weep in outrage and frustration.

I also weep for this nation. What shall we become if history continues to repeat itself? This time, I hope we have the courage to have a conversation that we, as a nation, have never had. How did we get here? And why have we insisted on staying here in the midst of a mess that treats black people as less than? How can we change? We begin by facing the truth.

The truth is we live in a nation that has racism baked into its bones. The truth is that African Americans are not inferior to whites, biologically or otherwise. But racism has made us believe that narrative. It’s in our neighborhoods. It’s in our hospitals. It is in the movies we watch and the books we read. It is in our classrooms. Do you ever wonder why? It’s the system; systems do what they are designed to do. No one has escaped it, but we can try.

First, let’s simply accept that racism exists. Let’s open our eyes and see. Let’s open our ears and listen. Let’s open our hearts and hurt.

Second, let’s decide not to perpetuate the system by staying silent. Let’s talk to our family, our friends, our co-workers – really talk and really listen. Then, let’s create an action plan that changes the future.

Third, let’s commit to educating ourselves. I’ll recommend “Stamped from the Beginning,” and “How to be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi; “White Fragility,” by Robin DiAngelo; and “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And other conversations about race,” by Beverly Daniel Tatum. Not a reader? Watch “Race: The Power of an Illusion.” When we are learning, we are building our capacity to talk about race.

Speaking as a former faculty member, I believe we have been presented with an opportunity. We can teach differently and set high expectations for every student. We can do this!

As we in earnest begin this journey toward racial healing in our nation, I am destined to weep again. But next time, I want to weep tears of joy.


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