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  • Wordall from Listening Space after the death of George Floyd

    Listening Space brings department together to talk about race

The Department of Chemistry's Diversity and Inclusion Committee, in partnership with the College of Science & Engineering's Diversity & Inclusivity Alliance and the Diversity Community of Practice, facilitated a Listening Space, Tuesday, June 9, for everyone in the department to come together as a community to support its people of color, and to listen to each other's feelings and thoughts about the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, Monday, May 25, by a white Minneapolis police officer. 

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee knows that this horrific, unjust event and the recent killings of many Black people at the hands of police officers throughout the United States and around the world, are traumatic and tragic reminders of our unjust society. These words do not do justice to the trauma and loss many people of color are experiencing during this difficult and challenging time. Its invitation was, "let’s come together as a community to support members of our department who are people of color and, importantly, to center their voices. Let’s come together to process our thoughts and emotions." Those who did not feel comfortable sharing aloud during the listening session were invited to submit comments via an anonymous survey. About 90 people, students, faculty, and staff participated in the Listening Space.

The time together began with 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence at 11 a.m., the time when George Floyd's funeral began in Houston, Texas. That’s the amount of time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck, resulting in his death. What followed the silence were powerful expressions of emotions, anger, grief, loss, guilt and more plus expressions of commitment to work toward change. The space closed with an introspective reflection inviting participants to answer  three questions: What are folks feeling? What are folks doing today to take care of themselves? Who/what are you grateful for at this moment? The words that emerged are included in the word all graphic.

This Listening Space is just one small part of strengthening the Department of Chemistry's community and the ongoing and difficult work to move toward systemic and institutional change to end racism.

Michelle Obama reflects on how people can work together, starting with self examination, and participating in the eradication of racism: "Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of colour to deal with it. It’s up to all of us—Black, white, everyone—no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out. It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets.”