Dear UNP community,
Like you, we are in pain. We are angry. We are afraid. We are horrified by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. We say their names to honor their lives, and to condemn this country’s 400-year history of stealing Black life. We know that white supremacy and anti-Black violence have been woven into the fabric of this country and its institutions from the beginning. This includes Utah, where Black people are killed by police over nine times the rate of their white peers — the highest disparity in the nation.
We are also proud, because so many of you are working, day after day, to create change in and outside of our institutions. You give us hope, just as you have given us hope throughout our 18 years of building partnerships together. This moment of pain is also a moment of possibility, a moment for us to recommit to the necessary work of naming, challenging, and dismantling racism in all its forms.
We recognize that police violence in communities of color is one face of a vast system that produces racial injustice. It is connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately harmed Indigenous communities and communities of color like the west side due to long-running disparities in health, food, employment, and housing. It is connected to our country’s long history of separating and detaining families of specific racial and ethnic groups. Is connected to racial disparities in incarceration and the well-documented processes that push so many youth of color out of schools and into prisons.
The problems are systemic, so our responses must be as well. We must set our sights on long-term changes in the systems and structures that continue to kneel on the necks of our Black and Brown communities.
Like you, we are a diverse group with many different perspectives. Some of us are Black, some of us are non-Black People of Color, and some of us are white. Some were born here in the US and some were born overseas. Many of us have direct experiences being pulled over by police, or having our intelligence questioned, or being overlooked at a job, or being the target of organized violence because of our race. At the same time many of us have benefited from white supremacy. Many of us — not only those identifying as white — have seen how anti-blackness manifests in our own families and communities. As a staff, our diversity of experience makes us strong. However, it is only by recognizing our shared humanity that we are able to come together in partnership.
Like you, we have different opinions on policy and approach. Nevertheless, in this we stand united: BLACK LIVES MATTER. None of us can stand on the sidelines. Now is the time to act. As UNP staff, we commit to the following and urge our partners to do the same:
- Center the voices and leadership of Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color. It is especially important for those of us in predominantly white institutions to listen, learn, and take the lead from communities of color. It is about more than just surveys, or token committee positions, or asking for input just to dismiss it when real decisions are made. It is about hiring, promoting, and certifying People of Color as vital professionals. It is about supporting organizations and businesses run by People of Color. It is about working in true partnership — humbly, bravely, and with an open heart — to share knowledge and create solutions together.
- Have honest conversations about structural racism with our colleagues, friends, children, students, and relatives. We may feel uncomfortable, or afraid, or unable to find the right words. We might make mistakes. But we cannot be silent. We have to face the uncomfortable truths inside us. We have to equip the next generation to deal honestly and effectively with the reality of racism. Too often, the burden of speaking the truth of racism is left only to People of Color. It is everyone’s responsibility.
- Educate ourselves about anti-racist work in Utah and around the world. While this moment of protest began very suddenly, the work of anti-racism has been going on for a long time. Those of us who are new can begin by supporting and learning from experienced educators, organizers, artists, and others who have been doing this work. This way, we avoid harming or hijacking the very efforts we seek to support. There are numerous resources, educational materials, proposals, and calls to action that can help us get started. We have listed some below. In this country we have the hard-won right to protest and criticize those in power — we protect that right when we exercise it.
- Investigate our institutions and how they reproduce structural racism. For UNP, that means understanding that the history of the university system is intertwined with the history of colonialism and slavery. It means questioning how and whom we hire, contract with, and accept into academic programs. It means questioning which kinds of knowledge we legitimize in classrooms and which we do not. It means ending extractive research on communities of color and engaging in equitable research with and by communities of color. Whether we are teachers or police officers, social workers or business people, we have the power to start these conversations in our institutions.
To those of you suffering and hurting right now, we see you. To those of you taking to the streets or the internet to make your voice heard, we see you. To those of you starting difficult conversations with your relatives and colleagues, we see you. To those of you just starting to explore your place in all of this, we see you. We stand with you all. A community coming together.
The UNP Staff
The following resources can be used to start conversations about racism and anti-racism in your family or community. This is just a start — many more are out there.
Understanding structural racism & anti-racism
- Structural Racism: Racial Equity Tools
- Non-Black Latinx Resources on Anti-Blackness
- National Museum of African American History and Culture: Being Anti-racist
Talking about racism with children and students
- Sesame Street Town Hall on Racism
- PBS Kids conversation about talking to children about race and racism
- Anti-Racist Books for Children of All Ages
- Say Their Names: A toolkit to help foster productive conversations about race and civil disobedience (for teachers)
- Latinx Parenting
- How White Parents Can Talk About Race
Learn about local anti-racist work and discussions
Race and mental/emotional health
- Addressing Race and Trauma in the Classroom: A Resource for Educators
- Latino Behavioral Health Services
- Managing Strong Emotional Reactions to Traumatic Events: Tips for Families and Teachers
- Radical Self-Care in the Face of Mounting Racial Stress