Areas of Study

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

James Baldwin (1924-1987), Remember this House

Black lives matter — but that is not the lived experience of Black people, including those at Gallaudet University where many members of our Black community have struggled for a sense of belonging.

The stories and pain being shared by our Black community are a testimony to how entrenched racism has been a part of their lives. Their pain is not new. The culture of ostracization and exclusion is not new. Part of our own institutional history is that Black people were not allowed to enroll at Gallaudet until 1948.

We acknowledge their pain and how the impact of our collective actions contributed to the systemic racism they experienced. We must do better.

Let us be clear: Gallaudet University condemns racism. We must work anew to eradicate racism wherever it appears on our campus.

The process of healing begins by embracing the difficult conversations about the painful truth of institutional racism. We remain committed to listening and learning from the Black community and sharing in the pain from their experiences.

But we will not shift responsibility to the Black community to fix or explain institutional racism to us. They have repeatedly told us about it and lived through it for far too long now.

We realize the institutional racism that exists is not the Black community’s problem. We accept that it is our problem and we must take responsibility for looking deep within ourselves and understand how we are a part of the problem.

When we understand how our own individual actions and reactions collectively support the institutional racism that members of our Black community still endure today, then and only then will we be able to start to make things right.

We look to our younger generation to lead the way. The Black Student Union and the Student Body Government created a petition calling for specific, actionable changes at Gallaudet. We acknowledge this petition, and we will address each of your recommendations for systemic change in forthcoming communications. We thank BSU and SBG for their leadership.

To our Black students, and to our Black staff, faculty, alumni, and community members, please know that:

  • Your message is clear: Our response must be ongoing. This is not a short-lived, occasional efforts.
  • Your message is clear: Black students, Black staff, and Black faculty must feel welcome on our campus.
  • Your message is clear: It is critical to listen and understand the impact of our past mistakes and to take the necessary steps to change our narrative and our actions going forward.
  • Your message is clear: Black people must be engaged with and lead in redesigning our future.

You can expect more communication from us.

You have asked for more communication about our plans for the future. We are working concertedly with our Executive Team, the Board of Trustees, and others to respond to this concern and to ensure that we have a plan to communicate more with our community and to do so bilingually, both of which take time and coordination.

We know that we must work harder to communicate more frequently and be more explicit about our current efforts, our plans, and progress on goals to address systemic racism within our university.

The Board of Trustees joins Gallaudet in demonstrating this commitment immediately. This includes:

  • creating multicultural teaching and learning experiences with faculty
  • increasing the number of faculty of color
  • transforming the workplace experience for staff and students with help from the Department of Public Safety

These are just a few examples. You can expect more from us in the days and weeks ahead.

Let us listen to each other and learn, grow, and live based on our values.

I ask that we listen to the powerful testimony of our Black students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members. I further ask that we provide support with thoughtfulness, kindness, and love. These responses and these emotions create connection and positive change.

Closing Thoughts

We are crossing the threshold. More is called from each of us.

To paraphrase the words of the black poet, philosopher, and activist Audre Lorde — unless we have lived the experience of black people, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.

The journey of anti-racism work is not a linear path. On this journey, we will face disappointments and we will celebrate successes. As Audre Lorde said, “this work will never cease.”


Roberta J. Cordano


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