May 8, 2020: A Letter for Sean and Ahmaud

Dear Community,

I want to foremost recognize the grief, pain and loss of the Reed and Arbery families as well as those who have lost loved ones from COVID-19.  I also want to acknowledge the feelings of our minoritized communities who are share the compounding weight of these tragic events.  While we should be taking this time to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates and reflecting on the memories of time at WashU, we are instead faced again with the realities of white supremacy, xenophobia, systemic and institutional racism as the context for which we end our week of reading and exams.  The shooting deaths of Sean Reed, Ahmaud Arbery, and the incredible numbers of COVID-19 mortality rates represented in our Black, Asian, Latinx, and Indigenous communities demand our attention.  While they shouldn’t have been the names and stories of this moment, they are, and now must be names we remember and stories we tell.  We are Washington University in St. Louis, but we are from Indianapolis, New York, Georgia, all over the U.S. and the world – these are the stories of our family and friends, and Sean and Ahmaud are their names.

Every aspect of our society has been designed to inequitably displace power and access to resources.  Institutional racism is playing itself out in real time – our minoritized communities are systemically being eliminated by decades of policies with structural implications for where you live, funding of education, access to health care and food, and career opportunities.  This must be a time when we should come together as a united community, we can no longer accept attacks on Blackness, state sanctioned xenophobia, and compliance with White supremacy.  We must say it – Black Lives Matter, we must understand it – Black Lives Matter, we must remember it – Black Lives Matter, because Black Lives Matter is the canary in the coal mine signaling the deterioration of justice and our humanity.

For quite some time in my career, I have been reminded that our work isn’t life or death, we are not physicians, first responders or air traffic controllers, I disagree.  Any person associated with the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) education (P-20+) whether as practitioners, students, researchers, faculty is doing work that has life or death consequences.  The impact COVID-19 has had on our communities of color and the uncountable murders of Black bodies demonstrates the pervasive and dominating power or racism in every corner of our country.    Our choice to prioritize and align our values as a university with diversity, equity and inclusion during a moment at which we are faced with the most unprecedented challenges of our time, reaffirms the profound importance this work has on the future of our society.  Eradicating racism is about life or death, we could have prepared for the fight against COVID-19 and stopped the senseless killings of Sean and Ahmaud.

I hope you remain safe but not silent.

Mark Kamimura-Jiménez, PhD
Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Dean of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion

Please visit the Center for Diversity and Inclusion to learn more about the following events.

Xenophobia and COVID-19, May 19 at 10:00-11:00am CDT

Moderated by Ariana Swei ‘22
Clioue Cheng-Stewart, PhD, Staff Counselor – Habif Health and Wellness Center
Yujia Lei, PhD, Licensed Psychologist – Habif Health and Wellness Center
Martha Turner, Associate Director of the Office of International Students and Scholars
Habif Health and Wellness Center Ally Against Xenophobia Campaign

The Racism Pandemic Town Hall, May 21, 2:00-3:00pm CDT
Alexis Handel, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan
Larry Rowley, PhD, Founder and Principal of LBMC Associates, LLC – New York, NY
Darrell Hudson, PhD, Associate Professor of Social Work and Medicine at Washington University

Additional Information and Resources
Resources from Habif Health and Wellness here.
Learn more about diversity and inclusion topics here.