On a daily and sometimes hourly basis, I receive emails from various businesses, institutions, and organizations that contain statements against racism and injustices, in response to recent tragic events and mass protests. As a person of color, and a veteran of Black students’, anti-war, and women’s rights organizations, who has personally experienced institutionalized racism and sexism, I have mixed emotions about these messages.
I see the assumedly well-intentioned messages of today as politically expedient, full of implied duplicity, and a bit like apologies for being late to an important event. But sometimes, I actually see something more important. I see words of action – steps that the business or organization is already taking or will take to address issues of racism and inequity within their own domain. Presuming these statements are true and not hollow promises, the leaders are doing what my female ancestors always advised: clean your own house before you judge others!
I am committed to working with the UAA Governing Board and with all members of the UAA community to look at what we as an organization can do within our own house. This is not a new way of thought for me or a new guiding principle for the organization. UAA’s mission and value statements have always incorporated words about equity and justice. Beyond those words, UAA has supported members fighting against injustices in their own backyards, as well as tough policy advocates who pressure decisionmakers. We are now reminded of how important that work is within the U.S., and to societies across the globe. It is UAA’s responsibility to support the work of our members and to engage in actions as an organization that advance social justice and directly fight racism. We must act upon our stated values, not simply during periods of social activism, but consistently.
The UAA Governing Board has already begun to identify ways to expand our activities and build upon current efforts to simultaneously raise awareness of race and ethnic injustices, and to support advocacy and the expansion of opportunities for persons of color. Giving those words meaning is an ongoing challenge that I have been and continue to be committed to. Sadly, the work of promoting and enacting social justice is never finished, as long as humans exist. But that is not an excuse to stop trying to make a difference. The words “make a difference” are a euphemism, unless we change the landscapes within which we work and live. For UAA, our “house” of actions is focused on the academic and professional lives of our members (students, faculty, practitioners), as well as their efforts within their own institutions and local communities.
I ask for your help in ensuring that UAA is an organization where all can thrive, but particularly, where people of color know that their lives, interests, concerns, research, and professional activities are valued, respected, and supported.
Margaret Wilder, Ph.D.
UAA Executive Director