June 18, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

In many parts of the country, tomorrow, June 19, is recognized as Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, when the remaining enslaved persons of African descent were emancipated in Texas in accordance with the ratification of the 13th Amendment.  The absence of the designation of Juneteenth as a federally-recognized holiday, along with the inconsistency in historical reference, public knowledge, and ongoing protests, is reflective of our country’s conflicted relationship with a racist past.

We all bear some relationship to the structures, practices, and cultural tropes embedded in the fabric of our county, and Westminster College is, of course, an inescapable part of a racist past, having been founded in an era of Western expansion and exceptionalism.  The greater our social and economic privilege, and the more comfortable we are with cultures of inequality, the greater distance we can comfortably keep from examining the more destructive aspects of this legacy.

For some members of our community, daily life in a predominantly White institution can range from challenging to traumatic. This past week, Westminster faculty engaged in substantive, online exchanges about the impact of micro and macroaggressions experienced by our faculty of color.  I am impressed and encouraged by the statements of accountability and solidarity while recognizing that recounting traumatic lived experiences occurs at a repeated, immeasurable cost. And, at the Cabinet level, we are developing a series of actions, from sponsoring professional development to devoting next year to examining our own institutional connections to, and ways to counter the legacy of white supremacy.

Please know that I am not interested in White shaming, reflections on guilt, or explicating my personal histories or culturally sensitive practices.  I continue to listen and learn, and I expect the same of all who are part of the Westminster journey to create a more equitable and inclusive world.  Fumbling and missteps are also to be expected as part of the process, making patience and grace a necessary part of progress.  May this be the point of no return in our path to achieving greater equity and inclusion.