The Echoing Call for Systemic Change

To be honest, I hesitated to write this statement. I thought about the countless incidences where people of color, indigenous women, and LGBTQ folxs were ignored, devalued and dehumanized, overlooked, discriminated against, and the ultimate consequence of their identity, murdered. Not to mention, I had also been concerned about the racism and harassment experienced by Asian and Asian Americans at the start of the pandemic. I thought about the repeated captured-on-video threats to and deaths of Black men, women, and non-binary people—particularly we have become more familiar with the most recent cases: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Christian Cooper, and Tony McDade. I later became overwhelmed thinking about those who we have already mourned and spoken their names, those who I may never know, those who would be next, and even my own experiences with being hyper-surveilled, questioned for “fitting a profile”, and dehumanized.

I suppose I did not write an initial statement because I did not have the words. I mean as a Black man, I have had to live with the reality that Black men are often suspect and considered innately mischievous, untrustworthy, inferior, or threatening. I also suppose that I did not have the energy. I would have to find words to describe what I and others understood not to be a new occurrence or phenomena; this is a continued cycle of racism, injustice, and systemic oppression.

I have found some consolation and peace hearing from colleagues, family, and friends who either understand or admit they have more to learn. I have also appreciated individuals who have been able to capture what is happening now and what it will take to move forward. During these times, the two words I hear over and over when others speak about moving forward are hope and reform. It takes us believing that change will come and that it is possible. This is why I do this work. I do believe that while I cannot reach everyone through my efforts, I can do my part. While I believe in individual and collective action, I also recognize that until our “system” changes, we dare to repeat the injustices of the past. I believe we, and most importantly those of us in positions of power and/or with decision-making responsibilities, have an opportunity to study, address, and/or shift systems that create institutional barriers, foster bias, and perpetuate racism.

To start, it comes down to us doing things differently to get different results. The series of events that we are seeing today and the civil rights moments in our history point to an echoing call for systemic change. If we were listening and watching closely, we would see and hear a call for justice that has been shouted throughout our country’s history. I believe it will take time for us to get there (to be just, inclusionary, and equitable) as a society, but I believe that it can happen. We just have to be willing to keep moving forward, keep ourselves and each other lifted, and for those who do not know where to start, just starting somewhere.

In the spirit of higher education and learning, I thought I would offer opportunities and resources as we navigate how we might heal, learn, or connect:

Seek out conversations through Dish It Up on Tuesday, June 2 at Noon -https://news.unl.edu/newsrooms/today/article/dish-it-up-session-to-reflect-expand-on-national-protests/

 Seek out counseling and support from Counseling and Psychological Services (for UNL students) at https://caps.unl.edu/ and from Human Resources’ Health and Wellness Resources (EAP for UNL faculty and staff) at https://hr.unl.edu/health-wellness/.

Seek out education and information from Teaching Tolerance at https://www.tolerance.org/topics/race-ethnicity; Conscious Company at https://consciouscompanymedia.com/the-new-economy/recommended-readings-on-racism-and-black-american-history/; or BuzzFeed News at https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ariannarebolini/george-floyd-amy-cooper-antiracist-books-reading-resources.

Over the next days and weeks, I will spend my time practicing self-care and finding ways to support others. I hope those who are hurting and exhausted also find time to care for yourselves and rejuvenate--we need you well. Additionally, I will continue to think through how our institution continues our commitment to inclusive excellence in ways that reflect equity and inclusion in everything we do.

In solidarity,

Marco Barker
Vice Chancellor