A message from Florida Southern's Chief Diversity Officer
July 13, 2020
It is with gratitude and immense responsibility that I take on this new role as Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Advisor to the President of Florida Southern College. I thank President Anne Kerr for recognizing the importance of having a college that is racially diverse and inclusive.
At this moment in our country, the ground beneath our feet has shifted; it feels different this time. It is a shift that creates opportunity and requires action.
The killing of Mr. George Floyd, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the countless number of senseless deaths of Blacks and other people of color at the hands of law enforcement, the racial disparity in healthcare and incarceration, and the blatant unfair treatment of people of color have exposed systemic racism and cultural incompetence in a way that can no longer be ignored.
Decades ago, the work toward equality was about compliance with laws. Affirmative action was a step forward to begin to make amends for the effects of past discriminatory practices, yet some systematically made it controversial, and the spirit of the law was never fully realized. Then we moved to focus on diversity where we recognized and valued the uniqueness of individuals and how each of their contributions could enhance an organization. Next, was the concept of inclusion, which intended to increase in an organization the participation and contribution of all its members. The evolution of change for people of color was largely well-intended, and there were some benefits realized across several sectors of our country.
However, the hard work for people of color to be recognized and included over decades never put the spotlight on the larger obstruction to fairness — the decades of a rigged system that, despite these efforts, was racist, unjust, and inequitable. And that system is still working as designed. It is oppressive. It created biases (unconscious or conscious). It minimized and it hurt.
Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm once said, "Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread and deep-seated that it is invisible because it is so normal."
But now, finally, we have the attention of those who are beginning to understand the pain and anguish endured by so many and for so long.
Our students, our faculty, our administration, and our surrounding community must and will do better as we listen, learn, and act to improve existing issues on campus around diversity, inclusion, racism, and equity. It will take persistent effort, communication, safe spaces, setbacks, and time, but together with patience, respect and humility, we can build a beautiful legacy of openness, trust, and inclusion at Florida Southern College.
Justice Thurgood Marshall stated, “I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. … We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust. … We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.”
And that applies to Florida Southern College as well! Please join us on this important journey to justice. Let’s learn and take action together to root out the issues in the system that set us back.
Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Advisor to the President