NYU’s commitment to building and strengthening a university-wide culture of diversity, inclusion, and equity has led to the creation of the Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation. As part of the Office of the President, the Office of Global Inclusion provides expert consultation, resources, and innovative strategies to help guide the University—and its uniquely global and diverse student, faculty, staff, administration, and alumni communities—toward a more inclusive future.

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A Statement from Dr. Lisa M. Coleman on Protests and Anti-Black Racism

Dear NYU Community Members,?
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We hope everyone is continuing to take good care of themselves, colleagues, and loved ones during these challenging times. We are all very aware of the ongoing media coverage highlighting the recent deaths and violence rooted in racism and anti-Blackness that have reemerged during the COVID-19 pandemic; and we also know that such oppression is not new, nor surprising; it is ongoing, deeply rooted historically, and woven into many of our collective systems and practices. The violence, degradation, and genocide faced by Black people is simply a fact of daily life for so many of us, and is epitomized in the tragic deaths of individuals including, but not limited to:

Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, Botham Shem Jean, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Akai Gurley, Oscar Grant, Laquan McDonald, Tulsa 1921, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Jordan Davis, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Stephon Clark, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, David McAtee, Emmett Till and countless others.?

These global systemic and systematic patterns of racial aggression are often grounded in histories and legacies of state- and socio-politically sanctioned violence that is particularly focused on and targets Black and Indigenous peoples. This violence is frequently intersectional and directed toward marginalized and underrepresented peoples in the forms of xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism, and degradation; toward an array of people of color and multiethnic and multiracial populations; toward LGBTQ+ communities, in particular those who are people of color; and toward those who are socio-economically disenfranchised though systems of inequity. The stakes of these intersections are high, and the consequences of the aggression are often deadly. And, as our history reminds us and as our current stories and present day realities reflect, the indisputable disparities and inequities in our society have real impact and often lead to dismissal and denial, misrepresentation of facts, annihilation, and death.
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Not only am I frustrated, troubled, outraged, exhausted, and deeply alarmed by the continuation and retrenchment of racism, the looming and horrifying spectacle of Black death, the related xenophobia and biased actions, and the violence that seems to be increasing, but I am also enraged and exasperated by the ways in which the response to such assaults and acts of violence are being coded and recoded. The insidious and ongoing violence that people of African descent have faced, as?President Hamilton reminds us in his recent letter?to the NYU community, gives rise to protest and to people taking action.?

As many scholars and researchers remind us, what is also crucial to the discourse is that protest is not inherently violent; it is an expression of discontentment that has been used across locales, and social movements, across countries, and time. Within the context of Black resistance, protest, and social movements, there have been assertions of humanity and equality that disrupt societies that would seek to deny and destroy this very basic humanness and the right to exist. Again, we know from our academic scholars, globally and here at NYU, that social protest movements have led to great and essential change? – as reflected here in the US with regard to civil rights for women and people of color in the 20’s, 50’s and 60’s; LGBTQ+ rights in the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s; in South Africa with the anti-apartheid social movement in the 80’s; or today with the Black Lives Matter movement. People come together to express their dissatisfaction, anger, and fear about the violence and terrorism directed toward them, which is commonly sanctioned and upheld by powerful entities. In our discourse, we must not only recognize the ways in which such forces are at work, and where and how violence is being directed by powerful entities towards those on the margins, vulnerable and often less fortunate, and also where and when to take concrete steps to make systematic and sustained changes.
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My team and I are doubling down on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in partnership with all constituencies to make lasting change at NYU that reflects the voices of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni (remembering that the?Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation (OGI) officially began its work just two years ago and continues to build on the work of so many across the University). As President Hamilton also expressed, we must continue to assess how we, individually and collectively, make NYU and our global communities more just, equitable, and inclusive; and then most importantly, we must all engage and sustain this work.?
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Across OGI, we continue to collaborate with leadership, students, faculty, and staff across the University to design and implement strategies, innovations, and resources that are responsive in serving those most impacted and, in many cases, most vulnerable. Members of the OGI continue to do the following work, in addition to efforts we have launched in response to?[email protected]. We are:

  • Providing consultation and guidance across the University as individuals, schools, units, and departments meet within their local and global contexts to be responsive during this time, while we continue to work with the?Global Inclusion Officers Council (GIOC)?in responding to specific community needs;
  • Advising University leadership on new and existing programs and resources; and, in partnership with Provost Katy Flemings’ team, tracking current progress and ramping up resources and supports for faculty in engaging students, staff, and faculty peers; and,?
  • Hosting virtual meetings with students, faculty, and staff respectively to provide tips and guidance for micro-dialogues around high-stakes issues,?planning events and programs, and convening community groups to gather relevant and salient information for working and communicating with all community members. ?

Right now, we continue to navigate through a pandemic together, its heightened disparate impacts, and the compounded pressures on some members of our community. Currently and post-pandemic, we have opportunities to be and to do better, or not. Unless we decide to act and to intercede, the surge of violence directed toward people of African descent will simply go underground again, only to reemerge during another disruption, pandemic, flood, hurricane, or tornado. And, the inevitable, unfortunate, and not surprising outcomes will be more “I Can’t Breathe” deaths. So it is simple - it is up to us to make changes now, to change what we do, and how we take action.?

Many have heard me draw upon these sentiments in the past, and now more than ever, I reiterate them here:? “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together,” from Australian Indigenous writer and activist Lilla Watson; and from author and justice activist James Baldwin, "The world is before [us], & [we] need not take it or leave it as it was when [we] came in."?

So I ask, what will you, we, do next? We in OGI are taking action, continually working across the University to hold one another accountable, AND to create opportunities for us here at NYU to do and to be better together. Please join us. And, again, please do take very good care of yourselves, your colleagues, and loved ones.?

In community, ?

Dr. Lisa Coleman's signature

Lisa M. Coleman, PhD
SVP, Global Inclusion and Strategic Innovation

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