For eight weeks, our book club has addressed the topic of antiracism. We have discussed White fragility, denial, and microaggressions. We have learned how racism can affect the physical and mental health of people of color, and how White progressives like us unconsciously do more damage than do avowed White supremacists. Our moderators, Janice Wright and Lacey Rogers, are people of color.
Ms. Rogers has been in the news because United Campus Ministry (UCM) terminated her without explanation. No one knows why UCM gave the cold shoulder to an accomplished, productive, and qualified person of color. Ms. Rogers has three degrees from OU and a long list of community activities in support of diversity and social justice, including implicit bias training, teaching an antiracism class for Athens High School students, and facilitating local antiracism book clubs.
Ms. Rogers has handled difficult conversations in our book club with gracefulness and expertise. Rather than impulsively react to a conflict in the group, she and Janice addressed it at the following session, offering context and a frame of analysis. She could have ignored the problem or reacted. Instead, she responded with professionalism and generosity.
All the talks, all the readings we have pored through in our group speak to precisely what Ms. Rogers has been confronting at the hands of the UCM governing board. Specifically, UCM decided to allow a mediator to tell Ms. Rogers she was terminated, rather than face her, give her documented reasons, and allow her to defend herself. That indicates White Fragility on their part. UCM said they didn’t have the funds to pay Ms. Rogers, then hired a White man and paid him more. That’s Patriarchal Racism. And their continued silence with a “business as usual” attitude is White Privilege.
We did not engage in an 8-week training on antiracism to remain silent. We demand that you, UCM, take a hard look at your actions and their consequences. As a community agency, it is imperative that you be open about the events that have occurred. Your silence is feeding the fires of outrage against racism in our community.
Mara Holt, Nancy Beres, Janice Wright, Fitz Read, and Katie Thompson
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