Letter to the Editor: ‘Diversity is an institutional responsibility’

I hate to say it, but I feel compelled to say it anyway.  Bigotry, racism, hatred, and many other “isms” are alive in the United States of America. I will not say alive and well because there is nothing healthy about hating others. As a child, I took the Statue of Liberty and the saying inscribed on its pedestal seriously. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…Send them the homeless, tempest tossed to me.” After all, we live in the United States of America and this country was built on immigration and diverse people, languages, cultures, and religions. Our diversity is a monumental strength, even though it was also shamefully built on the massacre of Native people. Having traveled to China and many other homogeneous countries, I can assure you that many of them are amazed that we manage to be a united country despite and because of our diversity. They value our strength in diversity more than we do. Or, they used to…

Having fought for civil rights and social justice since the age of five years old, I watched aghast as the events of Charlottesville unfolded. It was just another indication that everything I fought for my entire life seemed to be in vain. It was the culmination of a shameful presidential campaign that was introduced by defaming an entire group of people, calling Mexicans horrible names and completely misrepresenting the majority of this amazing group of people. And let’s call it what it was…making fun of a disabled reporter. I watched as attendees of rallies at the soon to be president of my country called President Obama a n—– If you can hear that word and not be ashamed then go back and study the history of the slave trade, Jim Crow, lynching, and ‘separate but equal’ in this country. And no, I do not want to hear that Africans sold their own people into slavery. That will never be a justification for what we did here.

In high school, I did a research paper on the differences between overt and institutional racism. Overt signs of racism are a reflection of the inner person, the heart of the person. The Bible says in Matthew 12:34 that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Stop making excuses for political representatives that say things and then act as if their intent was entirely innocent and, poor things, they are being slammed by the media and misunderstood, thinking that their superficial apologies are acceptable. No, I am not misunderstanding a thing!

Institutional racism is even more deadly because it is often shielded and embedded in the social and political institutions of the nation. What minority groups can have the political power when gerrymandering, redistricting, segregated neighborhoods still abound and wealth buys elections and political representatives are cowards afraid to speak out because they could lose funding and elections on both sides of the aisle?

When are we the people going to say enough? When are we, once and for all, going to teach our children that love is more than just a cliché? Do we even live what it says in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution of the United States? We should have those words plastered on the walls of every building on this campus that is rich in every area of diversity. When are we going to post and recruit for all positions, especially at the highest levels of leadership where decisions are made. No more interim…every position from top to bottom needs to be posted allowing at least a superficial opportunity for diversity. Even if we had a Chief Diversity Officer, diversity is an institutional responsibility, not just the responsibility of one person or department.

Yes, I have had it. I will not accept that the things I have fought for all of my life are not possible in this country. But it takes every individual and every institution, and yes, this University to say enough and to stand up for what is right. Abraham Lincoln said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

Karen Andrews – Citizen of the United States of America