President’s Corner July 2020

ISMS…The Conversation Continues 

Greetings ULFC Family, Friends, and Partners,

Although garnering more attention, racial inequity continues to impede the lived experience of many members of our community, especially Black and African Americans.  The challenge of isms is no surprise to those of us who are Black and African American as we cannot escape the injustice, inequity, and outcomes of the oppressive systems that have shaped the landscape we have come to know as America.  However, some believe that “Liberty and Justice for All” exist currently, and meritocracy is real for everyone.  This notion can be infuriating.  How can so many people have on blinders?  Do they really not know?  I honestly can’t answer that question.  What I will offer is that no matter what people didn’t know or want to acknowledge yesterday or yesteryear, it can no longer be the excuse for the perpetuation of isms, injustice, and inequity.  As leaders, we have to help create the space necessary for learning through speaking our unapologetic truth.  Uncomfortable moments and courageous conversations have to become as commonplace as baseball or apple pie!  If education is the great equalizer, then acknowledgment of and learning America’s real history is the starting place for real change.  

Black or African American people did not create racism, so it is not our responsibility to solve it. Still, as experts in the matter of being oppressed, we have a unique understanding of its effects and what needs to happen to dismantle and rebuild the system.   I believe Black people need to share the real and unfiltered truth of our America.  It is time to share the concerns of Black parents, Black males in society, Black women in the workforce, Black women in the women’s movement, Black entrepreneurs and small business owners, Black Students, Black families, the inequity associated with education and economics.  No more silence, it is time to be heard.    

White people, it is time to listen, empathize, and act.  What can you do? Great question, here are a few suggestions. Listen to the experiences of Black and African American citizens from a place of learning and not fragility.  Listen for accountability.  Wrongs can only be righted if they are acknowledged.

Listen with the intent to use the information to make change initiatives that have negatively impacted Blacks and African Americans.  Listen in a way that privilege has allowed you not too.  

Move forward with empathy. 

Understand that phrases like, “But it happened so long ago,” are offensive and untrue.   Many Black Millennials have family alive who grew up in the segregated south or experienced life under Jim Crow.  Be aware that death at the hand of police isn’t a series of isolated unfortunate deaths. They are murders that trigger memories of hangings, being called property, and stories of elders hunted by the slave patrol.  They are the reminders of conversation with youth in the Black community about interactions with police officers.  They are the reality of police officers excited at the prospect of being let loose to kill Black people (that just happened last week)!  

Understand the terrain and then ACT! So apologizing and hugging every Black person you see is lovely and may even feel good, but it isn’t real action.  Action is being willing to lose friends or even family for standing up for justice and equity.  Action goes beyond verbal support and statements. It’s leading the way in private spaces, boardrooms, and legislative floors to change policy and procedures founded in supremacy. 

Action is doing the work.  It is addressing inequity with opportunity.  It is righting the wrong of redlining and taking a stance against gentrification.  It is demanding an apology from the government.  This isn’t an exhaustive list, but you get my point; with 400 years of injustice, there is much to be done, and we are behind the eight ball. Let’s get going. Don’t be afraid to be on the right side of history. Don’t value property of morality.  Do the right thing because of who you are.  Be the leader the world needs to ensure that Black Live Matter, so all lives finally can!

Dr. Ryan Ross

ryan ross signature

President and CEO
Urban Leadership Foundation

Dr. Ryan Ross
Dr. Ryan Ross

Dr. Ryan E. Ross is the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Equity, and Inclusion for the Colorado Community College System and President & CEO of the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado.