The murder of George Floyd and the subsequent unrest in Minneapolis have sparked mass protests across the United States and beyond. Intense public outrage has brought national attention to the injustices that Black men and women in this country face daily. Institutional racism is pervasive in American society. The roots of social stratification can be found in America’s dark past, interconnecting racial, gender, and class oppression.
As a queer LatinX male, I developed awareness of my otherization in American society as a young child, but I did not have someone to guide me through the confusion and anger that resulted from this realization. As teachers, we have the opportunity to be critical guides.
While education should ideally be untouched by race, gender, or social class, it is an unreal expectation. We live in a world defined by these social constructs, so it is imperative that we—as critical guides—acknowledge that these forces have real consequences on our students’ lives. Effective educators engage in critical self-reflection to identify their biases and work consciously to keep them in check.
College of Exercise Science articles typically focus on physical fitness, but emotional and psychological health are equally important to human development—which is why it is important for our students to know that we—College of Exercise Science faculty and administration—acknowledge the complex emotions many of our students are experiencing at this important moment in American history.
Emphasizing race as a social construct is meaningless when the rate of fatal police shootings of Black Americans is 2.5x that of White Americans. Combating the totality of racism, injustice, and inequality is a long road. But as educators, we have the privilege of engaging with adults who can impact our world—which is why we believe it is important for you to hear that we applaud and celebrate a commitment to change.
Further, we know that the overwhelming majority of police officers conduct themselves with honor and integrity. But the continual pattern of excessive violence against Black Americans and other people of color warrants collective condemnation and examination.
To our students, we support the tens of thousands of you who have taken to the streets to demand that we face racism in America. Change is on the horizon because of your courageous leadership. By exercising your First Amendment rights, you are making history.
To my fellow professors, we as teachers can confront hate by uniting our students with the idea that love is more powerful. We can listen to their hearts, explore their fears, and clarify their misunderstandings with the same planning and thoughtfulness put into an academic lesson. Embrace debate and dialogue—because we cannot put off these difficult conversations any further.
We all have a unique opportunity to confront race disparity, discrimination, and brutality in the United States—and move with determination through this painful chapter. A more equitable and inclusive America will rise, and the promise of our nation can be realized.
By Dr. Carlos Turner Cortez