Anti-racist work begins and ends with us
My name is Bruce King, and for those who may not know me, I am the newly appointed Vice President for Equity and Inclusion here at St. Olaf College.
While the title and role may be new, sadly, I am not. It has been my privilege to serve this college these past 12 years as Assistant to the President and Chief Diversity Officer, working across campus with many of you as well as my colleagues on the President’s Leadership Team, alumni, donors, and, more directly, with President David Anderson.
In addition to wanting to thank everyone who by word or deed expressed their support for me and my new position, I also thought it was important to take a moment to communicate, face to face or camera to camera, or face to camera, as it sadly turns out, just what it means for me, for us, and for this community to DO THE WORK!
That is the work required to make St. Olaf a more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable place for all of us — faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the college.
You see, our community is called to be many things to many people. We are a place where people live, learn, work, mature, and eventually leave to share their gifts and talents with the world. As we all know, our world is in dire need of our graduates, who may be part of finding the vaccine for COVID-19, or creating better solutions for our sustainability problems, or writing, acting or directing the next big hit like Hamilton or Moonlight.
Who knows, there may be someone watching this video right now who will join the legal team that brings justice to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and just recently, and right next door, Jacob Blake.
In a world full of “Who Knows,” “What If’s,” “Where’s my Mask,” “Are you 6 feet away,” and other uncertainties, what know for sure is that none of these outcomes can be accomplished, questions examined, or lives fully lived if we don’t come together, collectively as a community, and work toward preserving the full humanity that every individual on this campus not only deserves but has a right to freely and genuinely express here on the Hill.
What we know for sure is that none of these outcomes can be accomplished, questions examined, or lives fully lived if we don’t come together, collectively as a community, and work toward preserving the full humanity that every individual on this campus not only deserves but has a right to freely and genuinely express here on the Hill.
For some it may be years, or a season, and for others a lifetime, but whatever time we have together, everyone has the right to be free and live free from racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, religiophobia, xenophobia, and plain old famila-o-phobia (fear and resistance to anything that challenges what your family of origin told you was the truth). We all have the right to be free from anything that hinders our progress.
As we start this new year, living far outside the realm of normal, we have been challenged to do the hard work required to become anti-racist, more inclusive, and a place of welcome to everyone who calls our campus home.
I look forward to working with anyone who is committed to critically examining our lives, the way our lived experiences intersect, collide, diverge, and parallel each other both here in the “safe Olaf bubble” and out there in the “real” world, where it’s not so safe. And as we examine ourselves and our relationships with each other, we will learn, and yes it’s a cliché, how similar we are but still vastly different from each other — but all deserving the same respect, understanding, and humanity we so freely give to ourselves and the ones we love.
Let me conclude by saying we did not get to this place of hate, bias, polarization, harassment, and disenfranchisement overnight, and we are not going to solve it overnight. There’s no training or speaker that’s going to get us cured by mid-terms.
The work we all must do to move from where we are to where the world needs us to be is going to require each and every one of us to carry the load. There was no wizard’s wand passed on to me as Vice President that will let me individually transform our culture with just a simple wave or tap. I may be a King but there is no magic in this crown that removes your responsibility for bringing the change needed.
Together, and only together, can we eliminate the forces that divide us, disempowering some and privileging others and seemingly making the color of our skin, where we come from, how we got here, or the outdated binary of our gender the only thing that defines us.
So let us collectively spend the remainder of 2020 and all the years to come, doing the hard work that allows us to do better, be better, and better recognize the uniqueness we all contribute to St. Olaf College.
So let us collectively spend the remainder of 2020 and all the years to come doing the hard work that allows us to do better, be better, and better recognize the uniqueness we all contribute to St. Olaf College.
Blessings to you, and now let’s go wash our hands, cover our faces again, keep a 6-foot distance, and get to hard work necessary to make this community a better community for everyone.
Thank you, and I look forward to working with you this year. God bless you.