Absorb. Honor. Attend.
Since the end of May when we originally published the below thoughts, we have witnessed growing engagement in activism, protests, and demonstrations here in our community, across the country, and even the globe, calling for justice for George Floyd and an end to racism and systemic oppression of Black Americans and all people of color. The building momentum gives us hope that desperately needed collective action will be taken to ensure justice and safety for all.
In addition to this hope, we hold concern for the well-being of those in our community experiencing the trauma that racism inflicts. Our colleagues at the Women’s Initiative have curated these lists of helpful resources for wellbeing as well as for learning and taking action. And we urge all who are engaging in activism to practice the self-care that will sustain these efforts for the duration.
We stand with our students and colleagues engaged in anti-racist work, echoing their calls for justice and equity. Like Dean Ian Solomon, we “Believe in our human capacity to learn and change.” Like Dawn Staley, we believe that hard conversations are “necessary for all of us to grow socially and culturally.” Like Ben Allen, we believe “we do have the power to change this from occurring again.”
We stand with our students and colleagues in affirming that Black lives, Black dreams, Black perspectives, Black experiences, Black futures matter.
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May 29, 2020
This has been a hard week, marked by multiple traumatic news reports. The pain and suffering caused by each of these events have been disproportionately borne by communities of color. We pause to honor those lives lost.
This is a moment when we would typically remind you that the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center is here year-round for members of the University community who are grieving or need support in coping with violence in the news, especially violence that time and again is aimed at members of the community with which they identify. People are experiencing a range of intense emotions, including anger, fear, and grief, in the wake of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder, Breonna Taylor’s murder, George Floyd’s murder, and the death of 100,000 people in the US from COVID-19 (with those deaths disproportionately occurring in communities of color). Knowing that people at UVA and in Charlottesville are hurting, we would encourage you to come to the Women’s Center for the in-person support we provide.
These are not normal times. We are not in the Women’s Center to greet you in our usual ways. But our commitment to supporting the University community stands and moves us to offer what support and guidance we can.
Absorb, with care.
Understanding trauma may help you to process violence in the news or to support others in your life in doing so. To that end, we can offer useful insights provided by our counseling team who are always willing to share their knowledge. Now, as always, it is important to take a trauma-informed approach in responding to social injustice.
Traumatic events bring loss, whether that’s the loss of a sense of safety, the loss of a sense of control or the actual loss of a family member or friend. Managing our own reactions to such losses, even those that emanate from events happening far from where we are physically located, is crucial. We must take care of ourselves so that we can respond without creating further harm.
Here are two brief articles that members of our team have written to help you process traumatic events:
Every one of us has multiple responses in times of stressful news, emotionally, socially, and politically - and will continue to do so as we move forward. It is important, however, to seek help if your reaction is interfering with your ability to function in daily life. Resources that are available during the COVID-19 pandemic include those listed here.
Racist/racialized violence is a systemic, society-wide evil. The current constraints we face in confronting it, the stay-at-home guidelines that we’re observing, may put some of the actions in activists’ established playbook out of reach. But these constraints might also provide clarity about an effective way for allies to respond.
Minneapolis is the community that is currently most visibly grappling with the trauma of racial violence. For all of us seeing the impact on that community from afar, this moment provides us with the opportunity to practice a pivot in our response and one that is important because “good politics start locally.” After we sit with the injustice, absorbing what has happened, might we next honor those who lost their lives by identifying the injustices and problems in our own respective communities and putting into action concrete plans to correct them? Might those of us who work for social justice – or aspire to - ask ourselves, How can I find a voice that I can use where I am to speak up for the human dignity of all? How can I intervene when I see something happening?
While you may currently be far from Grounds, you are not far from what you have learned in your time at UVA: how can you translate what you have learned about bystander intervention into a technique that meets the needs of your current community? Remember learning the three Ds? There are actually 5 Ds: Direct, Distract, Delay, Delegate and Document. All of these are legitimate strategies, used singly or in combination, to resist and interrupt racism when you see or hear it.
Speaking out on social media is one way you might engage but it is not a substitute for attending to injustice in other ways. This is a systemic social ill we’re confronting. Concrete action to dismantle it is what counts. “Beyond the Hashtag: How to Take Anti-Racist Action in Your Life,” Zyahna Bryant’s May 2020 op-ed on TeenVogue.com speaks plainly and powerfully to how you can do this and why it matters.
We stand, as always, with all of our students, alums and colleagues working to create a respectful culture on Grounds and across the world. And we want to remind all UVA students, as well as the faculty, staff and parents across the University community who care about them, that we are here to provide support and information about available resources.