June 5, 2020: Our Commitments to the Black Community and to Racial Justice

June 5, 2020

Our Commitments to the Black Community and to Racial Justice

We write this note to our colleagues at Georgetown – students, staff, and faculty. And to our partners in the broader Washington, D.C. community and across the educational landscape. We write especially to Black members of our communities and to our allies across campus to say that we hear you, we see you, and we stand in solidarity with you. Black lives matter to us. Your lives matter to us. We believe that this time demands stark clarity, humility, honesty, and a serious commitment to action. 

So, we say:

  • We are appalled at the violence in our society perpetrated against Black people.
  • We denounce the physical violence enacted against countless Black people daily and the recent murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade.
  • We grieve that the two pandemics of coronavirus and racial violence are most damaging to the safety, health, and livelihoods of our Black communities.
  • We know that these are only a small subset of the many manifestations of the corrosive structural racism in our society. 
  • We own that this structural racism is not only pervasive within higher education generally but also underlies the existence of highly selective institutions like Georgetown.
  • We acknowledge it is this generation’s responsibility to respond to the failure to make progress against systemic racism and its devastating economic, educational and health impacts on the Black community.

We know that this situation raises the stakes on how we must respond to the continued blatant disregard of Black lives. The Red House and The Hub are two connected units whose existence is grounded in pursuing educational Equity and Innovation – together and inseparably. Equity in education is necessary to advance racial justice, and Innovation in education is necessary to achieve the systemic transformations that are required to advance equity. We commit to being more successful at modeling and enacting change – for our own staff, for our Georgetown community, and for our colleagues and collaborators across the educational landscape. 

As the Directors of these units, dedicated to the work of transformative education, we publicly commit to these principles and to translating these broad commitments into specific actions to which we can hold ourselves accountable in the coming weeks:  

  • We acknowledge that we are complicit in the systems we seek to improve.
  • We commit to listen and to learn from individuals in the Black community who bring perspectives and experiences that we have not had.
  • We commit to working with our allies (in OSEI, CMEA, CSP, GSP, and CSJ among many other offices and organizations, as well as faculty and academic staff from many different departments and units across the University) to identify and eradicate structural racism at Georgetown.
  • We commit to advocating for transformative higher education that is grounded in the goals of racial justice. 
  • We commit to being bold in our vision and equally bold in our actions. 

We are angry and anguished at the violence to the Black community. We are deeply pained that our generation has thus far failed in our essential obligation to leave the world safer for future generations. Yet at a time when anger threatens to consume us, we choose to turn that anger into action. We embrace our roles in sustaining attention to these values through our work, inside and outside of Georgetown.

Heidi Elmendorf
Director, The Hub for Equity and Innovation in Higher Education
Associate Professor of Biology (Georgetown College)

Randy Bass
Director, Red House and the Baker Trust for Transformational Learning
Professor of English (Georgetown College)