Words are important; actions speak louder
We saw a man killed in the streets of Minneapolis last week. The video was horrifying. We saw his death and heard the voices of those nearby asking for help for the man. We heard the man say, “Please” and “I can’t breathe.”
That man’s name was George Floyd. He had a family and friends. He had dreams. We will remember his name and the names of other Black Americans recently killed in tragic incidents of racial violence: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Jamar Clark, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Eric Garner and so many more. They are dead as a result of racism, and many of their deaths were the results of police violence.
In the eyes of the law, we should all be equal. When we aren’t all treated equally, the duty of society -- of the media and of each individually -- is to work to ensure that we provide justice, respect and facts. Our Black colleagues, friends, family members and others have often been denied those basic rights. We want you to know that we see you, we are here for you, and we stand by you. Black lives matter. The William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications faculty, students and staff join millions of fellow Americans in feeling angry, frustrated and discouraged.
In the J-School, we tell others’ stories. We aim to give context to names, places and events. Our stories are meant to inform, enlighten and persuade. Yet, we sometimes fall short of listening, learning and telling stories with grace and empathy. Racism will persist unless we listen, learn and act.
In this statement and in the coming months, we commit to use the privilege that exists within our academic community to be allies to call out and combat racism, discrimination and harassment. We reaffirm our commitment to increasing diversity within our faculty and student body. We strive to be a haven for open and honest dialogue and research that leads to greater understanding and progress toward equality. In that we have hope.
So, this summer we pledge to act by doing the following:
- We will reissue our school’s climate study, a review of how our students, faculty and staff feel about our school community. Publishing this study will help us listen, learn and share our thoughts and feelings about diversity, inclusion and equity.
- Our Diversity and Inclusion Action Group will plan two programs this year that deal with respect and inclusion. One will be a panel paired with open discussion; the other will bring a speaker to campus whom we planned to bring to campus this spring.
- This summer, we will offer a three-part online series dealing with the media’s role in society; telling the stories of our communities; and the legal and ethical responsibilities of storytelling.
We hope that you will join us so that we can hear your voice.
Respect. Inclusion. Communication. Action. Those are core values of this School. Words are important; actions speak louder.
The leadership team of the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications
Students, faculty and staff in crisis are encouraged to access campus resources at help.ku.edu.