On May 1, a racial slur painted on Beta Bridge in Charlottesville prompted a quick series of condemnations by a variety of people and organizations at the University of Virginia. Within a day, the news cycle was complete and the story no longer held headlines or the attention of many.
The University and Community Action for Racial Equity, however, has a much longer attention span. Our attention is focused on much more than the hateful graffiti of that marginal citizen. We are determined to continue building a more inclusive community where everyone’s gifts are welcome, everyone’s talents are constructively engaged and no one is demeaned because of his or her identity.
That incident, while seemingly fleeting, and dealt with institutionally as one-time occurrence, is something we have seen repeatedly over the years on and around Grounds. We note that the incident coincided with a forum we held on the declining enrollment of African-American students at UVa. Both trends remind us that the legacy of slavery, discrimination and racism continues to haunt our community.
We urge the university administration and wider community to substantively address the underlying causes of the ongoing problems reflected in the slur and its response. We have laid out our plan for that work in a report that we released just one year ago (http://bit.ly/UCARE). We remain committed to the work detailed in that report and invite collaboration with interested parties.
So, unlike the news cycle that may be here today and gone tomorrow, UCARE’s commitment is decidedly for the long haul. That is the way grassroots change and progress are made, and by this letter we invite other concerned citizens and engaged groups to join us in creating a more open and democratic community.
We also welcome individuals and offices within UVa who share our vision and our determination to make our community more inclusive and productive to join us in this work. There is much to be done.
John Alexander is a member of the steering committee of the University and Community Action for Racial Equity. This letter also carried the names of 16 other committee members.