A wide shot of a ceramics studio, featuring students working with pottery wheels and other tools.

Knowledge, Care, and Names to Remember

Dear SAIC Community,

The systemic racism that corrupts American life is anathema to our community of artists, designers, and scholars. We possess some of humanity’s most powerful tools for communication and connection, and we can use them to reimagine our shared society. It is our obligation as individuals, and as members of our School community, to deploy our talents in the service of racial justice.

Learning is a place where many of us must start. There are realities with which empowered peoples must come to terms. Especially for beneficiaries of White privilege such as myself, who benefit from a system that discourages any questioning of our advantages, it’s incumbent on us to do the work to understand the ways in which that system disadvantages people of color. In the United States in particular, such disparities are rooted in centuries-old inequality that initially enslaved, and has subsequently marginalized, Black people.

In our current moment, race-based structural inequalities are glaringly apparent in the disproportionate COVID-19 infection rates, incarceration rates, dearth of educational and employment opportunities, and racialized violence experienced by people of color. In particular, we remember George Floyd, whose death earlier this week is only the latest in a heart-wrenching drumbeat of incidents. We also remember Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, from earlier this year, and from years past, Laquan McDonald, Trayvon Martin, and too many others.

Many members of our community know this history well, either because it is part of their lived experience or they sought to educate themselves. In repeating these facts I seek to affirm their veracity and acknowledge that for some of us, and for our institution as a whole, we are still on a journey toward anti-racism. We must continue that journey.

A number of you have shared with me your feelings of anger and despair throughout this tragic week, wondering what to do. I share your frustration. Unfortunately, there is no quick or easy answer. We must educate ourselves, organize, vote, and use the art, design, and scholarly tools at our disposal to imagine and, eventually, bring into being the more just society we all deserve. The ideas that animate campus life will also serve us in this work. Pursuing questions, even difficult ones, is necessary for art making, scholarship, and negotiating civic life. Meaning and making are inseparable, which means we can reshape our shared society when we are open to critique and willing to do things differently. Finally, everyone belongs, so we must take care of one another.

In our eagerness to take care of one another, please also take care of yourself. Our contemporary notion of self-care, formed in the civil rights and women’s movements of the last century, recognizes that there are times when we must give to ourselves that which society has not provided for us. That includes a preservation of the self, mentally and physically, so that we might continue to work together toward a more just society. The Wellness Center provides counseling services for all students; and counselors are, and will continue to be, available to assist them remotely at 312.499.4271 and counselingservices@saic.edu. Faculty and staff may contact the Employee Assistance Program at 800.311.4327.

Take care,
Elissa Tenny