The members of The Fine Arts Diversity Committee (FADC) stand in solidarity with our students and colleagues of color. We join Moody College of Communication’s Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Ya’Ke Smith, who recently sent this call out to UT Administration: “As we move toward creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all, and continue toward our goal of affirming those that have been historically marginalized, we must take a stance that acknowledges the impact of this kind of violence and racial profiling on our community, and we must make it crystal clear that we understand the pain caused to those affected.”
We live and work in a society with long-established histories of racism and racial violence, anti-blackness, police violence, mass incarceration, settler colonialism, and xenophobia. The violence and trauma that our students and colleagues of color face daily (large and small) have been exacerbated by the recent murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Tony McDade in Tallahassee, and Michael Ramos in Austin, as well as Amy Cooper’s vitriolic call to the NYC police claiming to be threatened by bird-watcher Christian Cooper. This most recent violence is occurring during the midst of a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting and killing Black people, revealing deep systemic inequities. But the pandemic of racism has plagued us for centuries with no peak in sight.
We are all shocked and angered. However, for those of color in our community particularly, this trauma is not new. This trauma can take many forms including silence and inaction, microaggressions, censorship, and co-opting the voices of those who consistently show up to do the work of dismantling discriminatory practices and systemic racism. Indeed, the labor to address, mitigate and work amidst systemic injustice often goes unseen and unacknowledged. We cannot remain silent while such violence continues to erupt around the country and locally, and while our students, staff, faculty, and alumni of color suffer.
This current moment is a call to attention and a call to action. The FADC believes that COFA is not just a collection of schools, departments, and programs, but a collective of humans, and until every member of our community is able to live safely and is seen, heard and equitably valued in the eyes of our country and society, we are deficient. In our mission to actively establish and foster a culture of diversity and inclusivity, it is imperative that we as a College continually recommit ourselves to combating racism, as well as xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, violence towards queer people of color (QPOC), misogyny, ableism, and all forms of bigotry and discrimination. It is imperative that we bring a commitment to undoing racism into our administrative structures, our schools, departments and programs, our curriculum, teaching and advising, our programming and art-making, our activism on and off campus, and our unwavering support of our students and colleagues of color.
As our Committee Chair Professor John A. Yancey reminds us, “There is an anger, anguish, and tiredness . . . about the unending, omnipresent evil of racism that permeates every pore of our society in one way or another and creates state sponsored systems that allow murder after murder of unarmed Black people to go unanswered year after year.”
We also call upon the words of Head of Dance, Professor Charles O. Anderson shared with the Dance Area reminding us that “Silence feels like violence,” and that in remaining silent and inactive, we “do a disservice to our students, faculty, members of UT to not see this as a part of the educational mission of our institution- to speak to the socio-political contexts in which we endeavor to prepare future generations of scholars, artists, citizens.”
To our white students and colleagues, we urge you to check on the well-being of your friends and associates as you are actively listening and continuing the personal work of educating yourself about whiteness, non-racism vs. anti-racism, intersectionality, allyship, and activism. The committee has compiled a list of resources to assist with this work. To our Black and Brown students and colleagues, we want you to know that we see you, we hear you, we support you, you matter. We acknowledge your labor and we hold space for your experiences.
As artists, scholars, educators, and cultural workers, we have a duty to support diversity and inclusion within our communities – to support those who already have begun and continue this work and join them to undo systemic injustices and fight intersectional oppression in all its forms. We have the power to make a difference and must continue to work together to make COFA a place where racism and anti-blackness are not tolerated, and where staff, students, faculty and community members of color are seen, represented, and valued.
The Fine Arts Diversity Committee