Over the past few months, White America has offered up a plethora of statements denouncing bias and other bad behavior along with promises to stand with those demanding change.
African Americans within the UC system want to see that fervor go beyond the surface, beyond the moment, and have issued a call to action letter, imploring its Board of Regents to address pervasive racism.
The letter was written by the members of the Black Affinity Groups throughout the UC system, addressed to regents, outgoing president Janet Napolitano and her successor, Dr. Michael Drake, the university system’s first African American president.
“We are psychologically, physically, and spiritually exhausted from the anti-Black racism and violence in America that all too often rears its head on University of California campuses,” reads the letter. “We are confident and determined to press on, and see this moment in history as an opportunity to celebrate and fully recognize and uplift Black life.”
Authors want to see “systemwide concrete and measurable actions related to the health and wellbeing of its Black faculty, staff, and students.” A list of nine recommendations include the establishment of a formal Zero Tolerance policy on racism; a commitment to transparency, including the disaggregation and dissemination of data; the creation of a systemwide task force to address staffing concerns specific to Black employees and implementation of corrective measures to address those concerns; issuing and supporting a resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis within the state and UC’s medical centers; a review of chronically underfunding for Black Affinity Groups throughout the UC system; the creation of a task force on policing on campuses to discuss and assess how university police departments should evolve to look, operate and engage with campus communities; an increase of Black representation on the UC Board of Regents and the respective Boards of Trustees for each UC campus; funding for healing and wellness resources aimed at the UC Black community of students, faculty and staff; and support for the observation of Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
The call to action letter signees include Dennis McIver, 2019-20 Chair, UC Riverside Black Faculty and Staff Association; Latascha Magness-Cotton and Ghanya C. Thomas, Co-chairs UCOP Black Staff and Faculty Organization; Dr. LaMisha Hill, chair of The Black Caucus at UC San Francisco; Latascha Magness-Cotton and Ghanya Thomas, Co-Chairs UC Office of the President Black Staff & Faculty Organization; Danica Fisher, Chair UC Davis African American Faculty and Staff Association; and Charron Andrus, Chair UC Davis Health African American Faculty and Staff Association.
“It was important for our group to be a part of drafting this letter because all of the things called out have been impacting the employees of UC Davis and UC Davis Health for years,” Ms. Andrus shared.
“We have been trying to engage leadership on concrete, actionable steps to address these longstanding issues and have yet to be able to significantly move the needle on any of them. So we felt that if we put our collective voices behind this and targeted the top of the University that perhaps we could move the needle,” she continued.
The letter’s authors say it’s a prime time to demand change, as the university’s system’s first Black president, Dr. Michael Drake, is poised to take over from Janet Napolitano this month.
“With the appointment of the new president, I think it is important to note that he is inheriting a broken system and it would be unfair to put all the responsibility on him to fix it. The leaders that are here, many having been here for years, need to be held accountable and do something now,” Ms. Andrus said.
The Sacramento-based Capital City Black Nurses Association was also listed among the supporters of the call to action letter.
By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer