“Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability...”
The title is an excerpt from “Letter From Birmingham City Jail,” April 16, 1963, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King’s reminder about the urgency to act in the face of racial injustice is inspirational. Complacency is complicity. Perhaps even more pointedly, James Baldwin wrote in The Fire Next Time, “A civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.”
During Black History Month, we have connected Dr. King’s call to action with our anti-racism action plan — Becoming Better. We have asked our community, individually and collectively, to wear on our sleeves the urgency of how best we achieve our Becoming Better goals.
Dr. Atiera Coleman’10, Rock County (Wis.) equity manager and the college’s former associate dean, was the keynote speaker for our celebration of Black History Month.
The Becoming Better plan is organized around six goals:
- Increase the number of Black staff, faculty, and trustees through recruitment and retention.
- Build on our ongoing commitment to enroll and retain domestic Black students.
- Continue to ensure students engage with issues of race, sex, power, privilege, anti-racism, and anti-Blackness across the college.
- Continue to ensure that faculty, staff, and trustees engage with issues of race, sex, power, privilege, anti-racism, and anti-Blackness.
- Expand safe, inclusive spaces for Black students — residentially, socially, and academically.
- Ensure an effective and efficient process to address biased, racist, and discriminatory acts.
Achieving Beloit College’s mission requires that we advance these goals. Realizing our students’ Statement of Culture compels us to embrace these goals. Living our values requires that we commit ourselves to action to bring these goals to life. It is our responsibility — individually and institutionally — to own these goals, to make them central to our lives at the college, to release their power with as much pace as possible. As bell hooks reminds us, “There can be no love without justice …” Together, we will demonstrate our collective backbone to engage in equity, inclusion, and anti-racism efforts in the name of love and justice.
Our Board of Trustees has engaged fully with the work of Becoming Better, participating in anti-racism conversations, as well as establishing a standing Becoming Better committee. Beloit’s senior staff — vice presidents and division heads — just finished what has become an annual retreat on making progress toward the institutional Becoming Better goals. We all delved deeper into understanding the role that institutional systems often play in ongoing racial injustices with an eye toward how to restructure those systems.
As Dr. King wrote from his jail cell in Birmingham, “…the time is always ripe to do right.”
Do we need any more evidence that the time to act is now?
From here at Chapin’s desk,
President Scott Bierman