Blackburn Message on Racial Injustice

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Dear students, alumni, and community partners,

We are all grieving the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee and the literally thousands of additional deaths perpetrated against our brothers and sisters of color. At times like this our emotions become so strong it may be difficult to verbalize anything other than anger, sadness, frustration, and desperation for change. These deaths are symptoms of the racism that is systemically embedded within our country, racism that even now impacts people of color through dramatically higher death rates from COVID-19, lower socio-economic standing, higher unemployment, comparatively low graduation rates from high school or college, and poorer healthcare and life expectancy. We must continue to not let these deaths happen in vain. Instead, we will channel our anger, sadness, frustration and desperation for change into action toward the goal of social justice, and we commend those who courageously and peacefully demonstrated against this social injustice.

We are a predominantly white college that is grateful to those in our community who have labored to close the gaps of racial inequities within our campus, and we acknowledge that there is room for great improvement. We commit to use strategically the collective white privilege in a positive way to demand equity. We are a strong community of allies in this fight. We must continue to be allies, and we also must move to action. This work isn’t easy. For many white people, this will be their first time stepping up. No matter how uncomfortable this may be, a sustained commitment to social justice requires those who are privileged to speak up and take action any time they witness inequity, racism, and exclusion.

While our voices and support are necessary on a regional, state, and national level, we also have important work to continue at Blackburn. Therefore we, the leaders of Blackburn College, commit in the next year to an in-depth analysis of our formal and informal policies and processes to identify and correct instances of systemic racism that have insidiously crept into our community. In this crucial task, we must embrace the wisdom of our community members of color, for they have directly experienced the inequity forced upon them under the guise of practicality and tradition. We will continue the work that has begun across campus, partnering with the Diversity & Inclusion Sub-committee to appoint workgroups charged with examining and proposing remedies for systemic racism within the Student Handbook, Course Catalog, Faculty-Staff Handbook, and most importantly the unwritten culture of Blackburn. While this work must remain forever vigilant, we call for the highest priority changes to be finalized by the end of the 2020-21 academic year.

While this is a time for nonviolent action, it is also a time to recognize our humanity and the conflicting emotions which plague us. Rest assured that, even though we are in the summer session, we are all still connected and available to each other as friends, support people, change agents, and leaders for social justice. During the summer, please reach out. Although we are scattered all over the world at this point, know that Blackburn continues to think about you all and hope that you are safe and healthy wherever you are.


John McClusky, Interim President, with Blackburn College leaders