My writing this letter is a substantial deviation from how I normally comport myself in a professional environment. I have lived life in the intersection of race and gender. I attended a high school with a “KKK club” (yes, really, not making that up and no, I didn’t grow up in the south; I grew up in western Pennsylvania). People asserted that someone “like me” got into Harvard only because of affirmative action. People have challenged my leadership because they chafed under the notion of taking orders from an African American woman. But I assiduously avoided conversations of race in my work place choosing rather to lead by excellence and to marginalize the haters. But now is the time I must step up. My position as the highest ranked African American in the academic stem of our University compels my participation in charting a way forward.
So, with the goal of changing hearts, I challenge every one of us to consider whether there is racism at Lehigh.
- If your answer is no, ask yourself how would your life change if you walked in black or brown skin. Are you comfortable with that change? If you can’t see a difference then see the next bullet.
- ·If your answer is I don’t know then make it your responsibility to find out. Don’t rely on others to provide you with the information (here is a good article of why that fails the mission). Do your own homework.
·If your answer is yes there is racism at Lehigh then challenge yourself to walk the walk. When you see racism call it out. When you hear racist remarks speak up (by the way, when the response is “it was just a joke”, no it’s not—it’s racism). When you long for the days of “old Lehigh” remember that not everyone has a common history and for some those days were not pleasant.
Our University does not exist in a bubble. The threads of systemic racism are woven into the fabric of our lives. To change Lehigh we must change ourselves.