May 30, 2020
Dear students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members,
Over the last four years, unfortunately, I have sometimes written to our campus and community about issues focusing on racial turmoil and injustice whether it be on our campus or in light of past provocative incidents on other campuses.
Sadly, today is no exception. Recently, our nation has been gripped with hearing and seeing the graphic details of a number of recurrent and deeply disturbing incidents of racial violence and the tragic deaths of African Americans—people like Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. When I first heard of these tragic acts of violence involving Black men and women, like many of you, I was shocked and depressed to learn more about the details.
Personally, as someone who is Asian American and who spent some years growing up as a young child in Georgia during the segregationist 1960s in America, it brought back a few fearsome childhood memories—when I and my family were sometimes taunted, chased, and threatened by others. Fortunately, these childhood experiences never reached the level where I or my family were violently attacked, restrained, or physically abused. So more disturbing to me now is that if we can still witness such careless acts of disregard for human safety and especially for African Americans today, how much progress have we really made in our nation’s dream of reducing or eradicating racism in the 60 years since then?
Seeing these tragic incidents hit hard for me and for many others on campus. The fact remains that there continues to be very real and grim prejudices and realities that African Americans cope with daily. In listening to some of our Black students, faculty, staff and administrators, they shared their profound and raw feelings and stories that included acute pain, grief, anguish, constant fear, anger, despair and numbness as they reflected on their own past appalling negative experiences with prejudice and racism, and yet their personal strength and resilience also shines through. These are very difficult conversations to have, but if we are to make progress, we need to be willing to open up and listen with our hearts to understand. As a campus we hear you, and we want you to know that we are here to support and safeguard you.
Now more than ever, we must recognize that persistent racism, oppression and deeply ingrained prejudicial beliefs have insidious and sometimes deadly consequences. We must reaffirm our commitment to combat racism and find new ways to have more inclusive, authentic, difficult and critical conversations to expand our conscious awareness and to condemn and denounce bigotry and hate and take action to build a better environment. At Stanislaus State we remain steadfast in our efforts to educate, inform, and better understand each other by honoring the indisputable humanity of all people regardless of their ethnicity.
While these recent events might bring more darkness, I call on each of you to find our North Star. On our Stanislaus State campuses, we will not be silent and simply accept or turn away from the ugliness of racism. I am proud of our Cabinet and leadership team, as they too collectively will not be silent and will find ways to continue to support everyone through our teaching, campus services, and our work with each other and the community.
In this time of darkness we must remember our core value is for peace and nonviolence and I know our community also believes in this principle. Please join us in reaffirming our pledge to collectively have the courage to go beyond the written words, to critically reappraise ourselves to acknowledge our own responsibility, and then intentionally work to change our daily practices, beliefs and actions. Take a moment to reach out to genuinely welcome, listen, embrace and connect with others who are different from you as we build a more just and peaceful shared community. These are the values we hold most dear and together we can make a difference on our campus, in our community and beyond.
Ellen Junn, Ph.D.