Looking Back to Remember, Reflect and Inspire Action

A note to the MSU community from Prabu David, Dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences 

On an early spring weekend more than two decades ago, I remember standing in line at a neighborhood nursery with flats of Impatiens and Geraniums. My kids were in elementary school and I had a thicker Indian accent. The person running the checkout counter asked me to repeat my question. When I did, she rolled her eyes in exasperation and went on to correct my accent loudly in public. Under the bright light of the sun, the look in the eyes of my kids and the avoidant gaze of the people behind me is an embarrassment that still haunts me.

If a trivial slight should linger so long, it is hard to fathom the individual and collective trauma that the black community has endured for generations. Over the last few days, I have searched for answers to make sense of the death of George Floyd and countless others over the centuries who have been judged by the color of their skin.

As an academic community, we examine racial injustice, digital and health inequities, bias, prejudice, poverty and oppression. And we take comfort in our status as well-meaning individuals who harbor no ill will. But Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. cautions us that our lukewarm, well-meaning silence can be damaging. In this context, silence is not golden. We must unmute, speak out and become agents of change.

We must support and stand in solidarity with our African American friends, colleagues or family members to address systemic racism. We must listen actively and believe in their accounts of the grim reality of their individual experiences. We must expand our empathy and act on injustice. And we can begin by going back in time to the Letter from Birmingham Jail, which convicts and inspires us to action.

Read my blog for lessons I learned from the Letter from Birmingham Jail here.

I would like to thank Lauren Gaines McKenzie (gainesla@msu.edu) for her guidance and leadership of our DEI effort in the college. If you are hurting and unsure where to begin, please contact us. There are many ways to listen, learn, reflect and get involved. You are welcome to show your support and follow us via the ComArtSci DEI Instagram account