DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION work is trending. Given the state of our current moment, however, it is clear that this has come at a high cost.
Against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has taken the lives of over 215,000 people in the United States alone, millions have participated in demonstrations across the globe over the untimely deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and others at the hands of state-sanctioned violence.
As the director for Emory’s Office for Racial and Cultural Engagement (RACE), I wrestle with this reality. Certainly, it is great that more folks seem to be willing to listen, converse, and engage in dialogues related to race and racism in the world. It is also great that more folks seem to be delving into books, committing to self-reflexive work, and holding themselves and others accountable for persistent injustices that have gone on for too long.
But I cannot help but question how long will this energy be sustained?
I live and breathe this work—and, thus, know firsthand that it is both necessary and exhausting.
At the Office for RACE, we support Emory students. Our students are protesting in the streets for racial justice; our students are signing and organizing petitions and starting social media movements; our students are also demanding structural change at their very own university.
These students motivate me to keep fighting for them.
We fully anticipated welcoming our students back after the long, hot summer of 2020. We knew that they would be reenergized by what happened over the break. And we knew they would want to capitalize on the new air of activism that had been stirred. So, my team and I worked vigorously to prepare the resources they may need—but I warned them that this too shall pass.
You see, I have a different type of engagement with my students. I am tough, my humor is dry, but I am honest—perhaps too honest. So, although I encourage students to embark on this journey, I inform them that there will be rough terrain ahead. But as long as I know that they are committed to antiracist work for the long haul, they know that I am along for the ride.
And I want to invite as many people as possible into the fold before the spotlight dims and the world has moved onto other causes.
While I hold fast to the idea that this moment has the potential to become a blinding ball of fire that will be the spark to combat anti-Black racism, as well as persistent racial and gender inequities, history tells us otherwise. Regardless of the outcome of this moment, I call on my colleagues at Emory and other universities to stay the course. Continue to inspire students in their pursuits, encourage them to take risks, and, perhaps mostly importantly, perform radical acts of love.
At the Office for RACE, we will. Because for now, diversity, equity, and inclusion work is trending.
LANITA GREGORY CAMPBELL
Director of the Office for Racial and Cultural Engagement (RACE)
Through the Office for RACE, Campbell assists the Campus Life effort to provide opportunities for students to explore concepts of race and racial justice through education, awareness, activism, and identity development.