May 16, 2022

Dear Campus Community,

I am writing to you today with less of a message than with questions in mind following the mass shooting in Buffalo on Saturday, which the Erie County Sheriff described as a “straight up, racially motivated hate crime” against Black and African American people. I’m sure that many of you, too, are struggling to find some sense of balance in the constant dissonance between who you are and what you value with the senselessness of racial violence and the sickness of supremacist beliefs in all their forms.

As hard as it is to live with it, there is value in the dissonance. Dissonance is what keeps us from becoming desensitized to these constant tragedies and to the barrage of news stories and messages that follow. Without that experience of dissonance, we are not moved to question, to act, and to work toward healing ourselves and each other of the ongoing trauma of racism.

So, it is questions that I’m finding today. Beyond experiencing the outrage, grief, and deep sense of loss that basic human decency requires of us in response to yet another act of targeted racial violence, what must we actually do? What am I doing? What are you doing? And what must we do collectively at CSUCI to ensure the safety and well-being of Black people on our campus and in the communities we serve? What must happen to ensure the safety and well-being of every person from a marginalized identity group in America in these times when connection, community, belonging, and democracy itself are being threatened in multiple ways?

These questions involve so many layers of consideration at both individual and systemic levels. While the five mass shootings since Friday involved individual shooters, the social issues they represent are broad and nuanced – the touting of “replacement theory”; the mischaracterization of critical race theory; the movement to censure discussions about race and sexuality in P12 schools; the continuous gun violence that we see across the country; and the ongoing debate regarding the relationship between hate speech and free speech.

I wish that I had more concrete answers to offer at this moment in time. What I do have is a powerful belief in the value of community and the possibilities that caring and connecting across our differences can bring into being. And in the words of our colleague, Carrick DeHart, we can be generous givers – seeking each other out, looking for opportunities to talk, connect, and heal ourselves and each other through the simple gift of being present for each other.

I encourage all members of our campus community to take the time you need to reflect, be with loved ones, and support one another.

Richard Yao, Ph.D.

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