Letter from Chancellor Robinson: Racial Justice
Dear Ram Family,
Against the backdrop of a global pandemic that is disproportionately impacting African Americans, we again find ourselves assailed with horrific images that remind us of the reality of racism in America. While the memories of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor are still fresh, we experience the video of a white police officer kneeling on George Floyd's neck while Mr. Floyd gasps, “I can't breathe” as his life is snuffed out. We are once again reminded of James Baldwin's writing on the failure of human rights and social justice: “We have emptied oceans with homemade spoons and tore down mountains with our hands.”
Black America is accustomed to institutional racism in its many facets; however, it can often seem as though our efforts to eradicate it have too little effect. While I don’t condone violence as a means to an end, I do support our fellow citizens’ right to peacefully protest the inequities and injustice in our society. The fury and grief that people are feeling speak to the institutionalized intolerance, discrimination, marginalization, and bigotry that have existed in this country—and our world—for centuries.
But what must be our response to darkness? We must always move together toward the light. We must continue to say yes to life—and it is often found in terrible places like racist policies, beliefs, and practices; nevertheless, that is life.
James Baldwin once again gives us a path forward:
“For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witness they have.
The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”
As I consider this national crisis, I am reminded of our university’s rich history and its contributions to the advancement of social justice and equity in our society. Consider our motto: “Enter to Learn. Depart to Serve.” Our service as members of the Ram Family can—and should—include helping to eradicate the cancer that is racism in America. As long as we keep the light shining on racism, we have a chance of eliminating it. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always omnipresent. And we have to hold up one another.
This journey toward a more enlightened America has been—and will continue to be—a rocky road. We must uplift one another, support one another, and advocate for one another in all spaces and places where we have a voice. We must find ways to protest peacefully, vote and run for office, and commit ourselves anew to the work we do at Winston-Salem State. Our students are the next generation of leaders; we need their energy and effort to carry the torch as we work toward peace, justice, and equality.
Please know my heart is with you, Rams. Be safe.
Elwood L. Robinson, Ph.D.