As I sit at the window of Boner House looking out on Main Street in Old Salem, I can almost hear the winds of change. My title has changed. So has that of Richard Vinson (serving as Interim Vice President and Dean of the College this summer). And, earlier this week, I experienced the bittersweet reminder of change as residential students slowly began to return to campus to pick up possessions from their dorm rooms—items they had left in mid-March when the realities of social distancing began.
I look forward to other changes—as the Academy moves to Babcock, as the College works toward health leadership, and more. All of this is rooted in our history and traditions—and in a future we must build together.
And yet, those are not the only winds of change resonating today as we all yearn to experience other kinds of change. Yes, I yearn to hear winds of change rooted firmly in a refusal of racism. I have heard such yearnings lifted up by SGA and by others across our community. I join my voice with those voices here and in other communications.
As I do so, I think back to what I recently wrote for this newsletter, citing Octavia Butler’s near prophetic fiction. Her work points to the devastating impact of a racist social order and utters a call for change. Her call is not generic. It offers a stark reminder that racism devastates lives and devastates our planet.
Reflecting on the protests against racism taking place across state, nation, and globe, I have been thinking about womanist Kelly Brown Douglas’s book Sexuality and the Black Church. She spoke in the context of an earlier health care crisis (AIDS/HIV) devastating black communities in disproportionate ways. She wrote to show the ongoing reach of centuries of racism as a gendered phenomenon. In a week where we have also seen renewed controversy within and about American religion, in its reinforcement of racism and its centrality to social justice movements, her particular wisdom can help us move beyond listening passively for winds of change.
As we speak the names of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, as we write letters or join protests and work together to respond to COVID-19, we must be that change.