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At Loyola, we educate the educators on how to solve the systemic and universal challenges in our nation's schools. We believe the pursuit of equity in the education systems begins here. It is our responsibility, our passion, our calling.

At the School of Education, our mission calls us to embrace our human differences and recognize the inherent value in each person. We support safe spaces for open and respectful dialogue; thoughtful initiatives that serve to educate our students, faculty, and staff; and a warm and welcoming environment that makes it possible for all individuals to thrive regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, age, or social class.

Our commitment to social justice is at the core of everything we do in the School of Education. We believe that training a diverse population of future educators will pave the way for not only equity in education, but systemic social equity. If students see changemakers at the front of the classroom, they will be empowered to take advantage of opportunities and envision to become agents of change, as well.

ENVISIONING AN ANTI-RACIST SCHOOL OF EDUCATION

 

This country was founded and continues to thrive on and benefit from a history steeped in racism. As members of a University that has centered a strong social justice paradigm, we ought to be intimately aware of the permanence it has on individuals and communities. Yet, acknowledging this reality does not change the visceral reactions many of us are experiencing right now and have been over the course of our lives. As a Black man, I know that I am more often feared than loved in this society, yet I remain hopeful that a continued and collective fight for justice will result in systemic change. I have not watched the George Floyd video. I refuse to watch another Black person be murdered by the people paid to protect and serve us all. I don’t have to see the video to know what’s on it because the images of what has happened to countless folks before George Floyd are imprinted in my mind. In fact, Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people.  Among the others we know about in just the past few months include Breonna Taylor, Steven Taylor, Sean Reed, Adrian Medearis, and Tony McDade.  While I didn’t watch the video, I did see a still photo of a police officer, Derek Chauvin’s, knee on Floyd’s neck. And what I read were his words crying out for his mother and pleading for his life. That literal and metaphorical knee that has robbed Black folks of their lives and livelihoods has been a constant fixture in this country since its inception. The data documenting this reality is pervasive, ongoing, and therefore irrefutable. We see this playing out as we talk about the COVID-19 pandemic: Black people are three times more likely to die from the virus than white people. Whether it be healthcare, housing, education, sustainable environments, or criminal justice, there are distinct racial disparities that continue to persist and be ignored.  Evidenced through the way policies are structured and enacted, it is painfully clear that Black lives do not and have never mattered in the United States.

The state-sanctioned violence against Black people has its origins long before the advent of social media and video and has been happening since the birth of this nation. We live in a country built on settler colonialism and anti-Blackness. We are often drawn into the American Dream that relies on the myth of meritocracy and egalitarianism as the answer; as such, we look to education as some sort of panacea. As Black folks, we work hard to credential and prove ourselves in a capitalistic system that, since its inception, was never designed for us to find success and be fully included and valued. The racial wealth gap between Black and white folks with similar educational backgrounds clearly demonstrates that this is simply untrue. I dream of a world where Black folks cannot just survive, but thrive, yet have no illusion that education alone will save us.

Universities, like any other institution, are nothing but microcosms of society at large. The knees to the necks of Black folks are not only in our streets. They are in our classrooms, in our meetings, in our dining halls, in our dormitories, and in our curriculum. We [Black folks], are tired. Tired of performing the survival functions associated with the dominant culture defined notions of what it means to be “professional” and a “strong leader.” Tired of educating others on what anti-racism can and should look like when they have failed to do their own homework and internal work. Tired of laughing and smiling to present as less threatening and make others more comfortable. Tired of biting our tongues in the comforts of the ivory tower while our communities are starved of resources. Tired of playing the losing game of respectability politics with style and grace. These things alone are exhausting, but when they are the foreground to the backdrop of spaces that have ignored our humanity, they are the knee in our collective necks. When we go home to our friends and family, we rage, cry, and mentally and physically feel the pain of these tactics. We are tired and traumatized.

I am committed to leading an organization filled with members whose aspirations are to do more than just ensure survival. We know that it is virtually impossible to avoid internalizing racist, anti-Black stereotypes. The actions we take in response to this is what matters most. LUC’s School of Education will be visibly committed to anti-racist work driven by the foundation that there is no middle ground; either we are actively combating racism or we are passively enabling it. I envision our School putting a stake in the ground and leading this campus towards efforts aimed at infusing anti-racist work into all we do. That leadership will not be based on patriarchal, sexist, homophobic, racist practices that are commonly found in textbooks. We will engage in a new form of leadership in which strength is defined as communal, vulnerable, loving, and warm. I want us to push one another to be better, without the mental baggage that comes with the expectations that any individual has all the answers. The only way to make sure this crisis doesn’t turn into another moment that is chronicled on social media but does not drive legitimate systemic change is to take action. I would like us—faculty, staff, students, and alumni—to engage in anti-racist teaching, service, and intersectional, decolonizing research in collaboration with other Schools, Centers, and community members in pursuit of social justice.

I know we can take this work on, and I look forward to doing it with each of you. For us to continue moving towards becoming a community that honors each other's humanity, we must hold each other accountable as it's necessary to healthy connections and promote growth. This message is a call for us to collaborate with others—on and off campus—and strive towards that goal incessantly; even if the transformation brings about discomfort, which it undoubtedly will.

I am sending this message to engage directly with all faculty, staff, and students on this. I have been experiencing a range of emotions for some time and couldn’t gather coherent communicable thoughts until now. In the coming weeks, I will be collaborating with the Provost Office and other units on campus to share a few opportunities to help us get started on the path to a sustainable plan. This note is just the beginning of what I’m hopeful will be a wave of change in the School of Education and on this campus as a whole.

--Malik S. Henfield, Dean