Student Life & Leadership Example

CSL Statement on Anti-Blackness & Anti-Black Racism

CSL Statement on Anti-Blackness & Anti-Black Violence

-- June 1st, 2020 --
There is nowhere else to begin this but with an apology.

This statement is coming far too late, and not just because it has been over a week since the horrific murder of George Floyd in Minnesota. Not just because of the less publicized but no less appalling killing of Tony McDade by a police officer in Florida just two days later. Not just because it has been nearly three months since Breonna Taylor’s life was violently taken as she slept, during a no-knock raid by plain clothed police officers at the wrong address looking for a suspect who was already in custody. Not just because it has been almost four months since Ahmaud Arbery, simply out for a jog, was stalked and killed by a white father and son in Georgia. Not just because of the countless other examples of anti-Black violence and Black death with not a shred of justice to follow (as if there is any such thing as justice for the lives taken).

We must begin this statement with an apology, because the time to make it is not after the most recent act of obvious violence and terrorism against Black people. Instead, as anti-Blackness lies at the very foundation of the history and present day of this nation, this statement, and the action it promises, should be constant and built into the very fiber of who we are as people and as a center.

The Center for Student Leadership strives to be a values-driven space, with social justice positioned as the first of eight core values. We positioned Social Justice first, because we firmly believe there is no such thing as leadership that does not constantly strive to recognize and rectify the many ways in which oppression operates in the United States and globally. Leadership is never about simply managing the status quo, but envisioning and actively working toward something better: a future in which all people can be truly free.

Last week, we as a center moved too slowly. In processing our own grief and trying to come up with the “right” thing to say, we failed to act quickly and make it known that we stand with our Black students, Black colleagues, and Black people everywhere. We recognize that taking time to formulate messaging is a privilege Black people simply do not have, because you must continue to live your lives. There is not the same time to pause and take a breath because you have no choice but to keep on moving.

Beyond the present moment, the CSL has moved too slowly because anti-Blackness is not just about the most recent national tragedy. It is daily injustice, subtle and not so subtle, that Black people face in spaces of all kinds, including on this campus.

Examples of the daily injustice of anti-Blackness throughout all of the institutions of our lives are plentiful, and could be expanded upon at great length. Rather than doing that, another present global crisis is instructive. As we see the impact of COVID-19 ravage Black communities at highly disparate rates, we must recognize that the impact is not due to something inherent in Blackness, but in the devastating impacts of anti-Blackness on the health and welfare of Black people. Underlying health issues stem from food deserts and inadequate health care, the daily weight of over-policing and the cumulative effects of micro-aggressions, and the daily grind of poverty enforced through a history of red lining, white flight, discriminatory and predatory loan practices, and so much more.

As a center, we are committing to make sure we do not fail to move with urgency again.

In this moment, that means recognizing and responding to the fact that many of our students and colleagues at UCI are suffering. Beyond this moment, it means the following:

  1. As a staff, we commit to continually educating ourselves about anti-Blackness and to identifying and addressing potential sources of anti-Blackness in our organizational structure, in our programming, and, as individuals, in our hearts.
  2. While training on recognizing and confronting anti-Blackness has been a standard part of our developmental programming for student leaders with whom we work for years, that training has at times failed to achieve the desired goals. We commit to working with campus partners and students to develop a robust anti-Blackness and pro-Blackness training to be infused throughout our leadership work that will be re-evaluated and improved upon annually.
  3. We commit to remaining humble, to accepting that we will inevitably make mistakes, and to staying open to feedback and challenge from our students, no matter how hard it may be to hear. If you are in pain, and we are failing to support you, then we need to grow.

For students, colleagues, and alumni who need support, the Center for Student Leadership professional staff team would like to extend space, our time, and our hearts to you. Please feel free to contact us via the email addresses in our closing below.

Additionally, if you are grappling with intense feelings such as anger, sadness or guilt, know that you are not alone. It must be all of our missions to continue to grow and educate ourselves, but complex feelings might accompany that growth. The Counseling Center at UCI may be a resource that can help support you and help you process those feelings.

UCI Counseling Center website: https://counseling.uci.edu/
UCI Counseling Center phone number: 949-824-6457

In Community,
Andrea M. Reyes - andreamr@uci.edu 
Chelsea Faustino - cfaustin@uci.edu 
Josh Cimenski - jcimensk@uci.edu 
mike knox - mikeknox@uci.edu