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Becoming Anti-Racist

Black Lives MatterLast week, I sent a message encouraging each of you to recognize the biases we all carry and pledge to help make America a safe and healthy place for everyone to pursue the lives they want to live. I asked you take a stand and renew the call that Black Lives Matter.

You answered with overwhelming support and action.

Many of you posted statements of support on your department websites (Africana Studies, Departments of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and Sociology). Several of you joined the demonstrations and marched on the streets of Knoxville to demand social justice and reform. We also saw UT Police Chief Lane speak out and host a virtual town hall to discuss the UTPD’s enforcement efforts.

As a college and institution of higher learning, it is our mission to promote intellectual inquiry and effective civic engagement within the context of respect for diversity. Our ability to educate is one tool for making change in the world. We can demand change in our community, but first, we have to educate our community on why that change is necessary.

This summer, several of your colleagues are working to develop initiatives to address racism and teach people how to be anti-racist. From online workshops and video testimonials to uncomfortable conversations about race, we will challenge each other through the summer and fall semesters to think about deeply engrained biases we carry. We will learn about structural racism from each other and work together to promote and advocate for anti-racist policies.

Tomorrow, Juneteenth, Black counseling psychologists and their colleagues across the country will kick off Academics for Black Survival and Wellness Week. I encourage you to attend and deepen your understanding of the deep-rooted nature of anti-Black racism in the United States. Listen to the stories and research – the evidence – and reflect on what action you can take to enhance the safety and wellness of Black students, faculty, and staff at UT and in our community.

If you would like help with the College Conversations: Becoming Anti-Racist initiative, please email and let us know how you want to contribute. If a unit or group of faculty are planning a program they would like widely advertised within the college, or across campus, or in the wider community, you can call upon our College of Arts and Sciences communications team to assist. Email Amanda Womac for more information.

In closing, I ask you, again, to take up your pens, your art, your banners, your ability to education and organize, and let’s make a difference.

In solidarity,

Theresa M. Lee
Dean, College of Arts & Sciences