President Olian writes about the pain of racism

D

ear Quinnipiac Family:

I write to you not about COVID-19, but about something more pervasive, more permanent, and even more pernicious. I write today about racism in America.  

This week’s murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and so many other terrible acts of violence against people of color demonstrate an inescapable reality: Far too many members of our society are still not treated with the same empathy, kindness, fairness, or justness that they deserve – simply because of the color of their skin.  

Bigotry can be subtle and corrosive. It is present when we use words that are insensitive; when we make snap judgments based on appearance; when we presume an understanding of another’s reality that has been borne of a lifetime of experiencing prejudice. I ask myself how this still happens in a country graced with so much good fortune and rich ideals. But to the many people suffering the pain of discrimination, this is no surprise. This is daily life where they encounter exclusion, fear, self-doubt, despair for a lack of opportunity, unequal treatment, and sometimes, sadly, extreme violence.  

Each of us bears responsibility to do everything in our powers to change the abhorrent reality confronting so many people. Ordinary actions some of us take for granted – like driving, jogging, playing in the park, visiting a store, or walking at night – can be risky for some members of our community because of systemic and deeply ingrained racism. We must rise up and speak out if we are bystanders to prejudice; we must commit as parents and mentors to educate the next generation for inclusivity and equality; and we must organize to actively protect those who are most vulnerable.

As a university built on inclusive excellence, we hold each person accountable for inclusive behavior, and we encourage courageous action. Our community is one built upon trust, openness and civility, that allows for honest conversations about difficult subjects; one that cares for—and helps—marginalized members of our society. 

My call today is for you to personally commit to these behaviors to reverse the legacy of racism in our communities: through your own compassion and commitment, by truly listening and striving to achieve an understanding of another’s reality and circumstances, and to rally for what is right. We cannot stand idle, and we cannot allow evil of any kind against any one of us. 

Sadly, our classmates, faculty, staff, family and friends of color are again feeling the unspeakable pain of these events. We stand in solidarity with you. The Quinnipiac family has always been a force of good. Let us lead the way as a beacon of inclusivity and as a voice of change.

Be well.

Judy D. Olian
President, Quinnipiac University