Listening, Reflecting and Working for Justice
The following statement was emailed to the College of the Arts students, faculty and community members on June 10, 2020.
Two weeks and two days ago, a black man named George Floyd was cruelly murdered by police in Minneapolis, the whole event being recorded on video. Floyd’s death came just as we were reeling from news of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Like so many in our community and across the country, I am sickened, heartbroken, devastated and angry that yet another instance of police brutality and racism has so callously taken the life of another black human being.
Racism has been festering in our country for centuries, and in fact racist policies and practices are at the very foundation of many of the social, economic and physical structures of our nation. This, however, is not news.
As a black man, I have myself experienced countless instances of racism, ranging from people crossing to the other side of the street when they see me walking toward them, to full-blown explosions of hostility against me, solely because of the color of my skin.
When we talk about racial hostility we aren’t talking about isolated incidents. The horror of racially charged aggression has been building across our communities and our institutions for decades. The grief and anger it has caused has now reached a tipping point.
The time for rhetoric about outrage is over. We cannot remain silent in the face of such cruelty. We must take action to stand with black and brown people--with all people who experience discrimination and marginalization in our society. At PSU, we must acknowledge the role that we as individuals and as an institution play in perpetuating racism. We must do the daily work of dismantling the micro and macro structures that uphold racism and discrimination.
What is clear is that this scourge that underlies our society won’t be solved with a single email. At the College of the Arts, we pledge to walk with our colleagues and students of color. We resolve to listen and reflect on our own actions, systems and policies that may unintentionally hurt others.
Thankfully, our daily work in the arts already revolves around listening, reflecting, and taking action. The arts are about telling our stories, and really hearing other people’s stories. They are about putting ourselves in the shoes of others and being vulnerable with them. They are about valuing every human being and treasuring the unique experience of each person, regardless of the attributes which might make them seem different from us.
As Dean of the College of the Arts, I will continue to support the College’s Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, which has been working with singular focus to dismantle systems that perpetuate racism and discrimination. This group of faculty, students and supporters has made a series of substantive recommendations for how the College can best uplift and support our students of color, and we will be implementing many of these goals in the coming academic year.
As we grieve and protest together, I am emboldened by the cries of “no more” and empowered by the voices of our students, colleagues, and community raised in demand for justice. I must become an active agent for change. To that end, I am open to hearing your suggestions and thoughts on how we can do better, together. I am listening. I invite you to reach out to me.
Leroy E. Bynum, Jr., DMA
Dean & Professor of Voice and Opera
College of the Arts
Portland State University