In summer 2020, I visited the (formerly known as) Robert E. Lee monument with my life partner. You can see Kent in this image, which gives you a sense of the size of this massive confederate tribute to white supremacy and hate. I chose to crop out Lee on his horse. This was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. Not because of Lee, but because of what the Black community of Richmond created.
To see this space, every inch reclaimed for truth, solidarity, and community was overwhelming in the good kinda way. Black leadership in Richmond turned this into a peaceful community center with educational booths, activities for children and families, and memorial markers and stories for countless Black and Brown people killed by police.
In Richmond, Black and Latinx residents making up 80% of COVID cases. Black Richmonders account for 61% of COVID deaths. We are not prepared to counter systemic racism within healthcare. We are not prepared to save Black lives.
As students return to so many of our campuses, as my friends here in Richmond and across the U.S. brace themselves to support students, we are not prepared. We are not prepared to acknowledge and hold the pain of our Black students. We are not prepared to gracefully and appropriately welcome them back into learning in a way that conveys that we see them and love them. We are not prepared to offer them a different experience, one that visibly proves we are dismantling systemic white supremacy on campus and in our classrooms.
They know it. We know it…if we are honest with ourselves. We have not prepared ourselves. On the whole as the collective academy, we have not even begun to create a plan to potentially prepare. As one of the protests signs left to warn us all says, “If not now, when?”
(written in August 2020)