Like most Americans, we at Montserrat College of Art were horrified by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police. Sadly, this senseless killing of black men by those meant to protect them has become too familiar. We believe that systemic racism and implicit bias have played a major factor in these incidents. The College is committed to continuing to address these issues and to continuing to have conversations on campus about diversity and inclusion when we return in the fall.
But for now, I would like to share some of my thoughts with our community, both internal and external on what we are experiencing.
I have been looking for some inspiration and some insight from artists that I admire to try to put some context around what we just experienced. I have been struggling with how to react to what has been happening in our cities in the past week or so, in reaction to the tragic death of George Floyd. Unfortunately, this has happened repeatedly throughout American history, with not enough progress in improving safety for people of color. It reminds me of the entitlement and white privilege I have every day. I feel safe. I don’t have to worry about if I will be harmed when I go out for a walk in my neighborhood.
This was illustrated vividly to me this past weekend when my sons took the canoe out for the first time this year. I wanted to make sure they wore their life jackets. That was my big worry. That’s it. I didn’t worry about them being harassed or assaulted. I have friends that have to worry about that every day regarding themselves and their kids.
I write this really to remind those of our community that are like me that our white privilege of safety is real and we need to recognize it. Other members of our community do not have this privilege of safety. They have experienced, and continue to experience, fear and the reality that violence has been or can be visited upon them. We need to make sure our community acknowledges this and increases our efforts to make our community a more welcoming place for people of color. We have work to do. I have work to do.
I won’t go through the list of things we have undertaken in the last two years to bring more understanding and ways to improve conditions for people of color on campus. It is hard to say any of it is adequate or enough. Our strategic plan calls for diversity, inclusion and belonging as core goals that need to be infused in our curriculum, hiring practices and our daily interactions. We will all benefit from embracing these practices.
We need to examine our own actions and how we can personally do something to lessen racism. No action is too small but no action is not acceptable. We need to educate ourselves about history and stay informed about race and racism.
These are just words. We have undertaken some actions. I have not done enough. I can only recognize that, and tell you that I will continue the important work. I will push our community to move faster and with more purpose and concentration.
So, considering all we have been through and what we have yet to plan and accomplish, Ai Weiwei’s words are simple but seem to focus us upon the tasks ahead in all these areas:
“The only thing we can do is honestly learn from our falls.”
I am hoping this community can do this. Let’s be honest about the truth of this moment, and initiate the difficult dialogues. Let’s come together and do the hard work needed to move our community forward.
Here are some resources which have been compiled thanks to Haley McConville and Mitchell Benedetti.
Below is a list of resources that have been compiled:
You can find a running list of resources here
Black Owned Businesses