As I reflect on the many messages I’ve sent to our campus over the past almost seven years, I am saddened by how many have been written in response to hateful acts directed at individuals and groups who are considered “other.” I have written about racist violence aimed at those of African, Asian, Pacific Islander, and indigenous descent. I’ve condemned violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals and those of the Muslim and Jewish faiths. I’ve written about political decisions that disadvantaged our International and undocumented students.
I have no illusion that my letters cause change even though they are always followed up by outreach to political, law enforcement, and faith leaders. I write to strengthen our campus ties to one another; to emphasize that attacks on “others” endanger and diminish all of us. Our safety from violence is increased only when we all care for one another in tangible ways
In “normal” times, our physical campus is relatively safe and free of overt or violent acts of aggression. It is not free of bias, racism, homo/transphobia and misogyny, but I trust that we are an equity-work-in-progress with the majority of us wanting to rid ourselves of bias against others. I think most of us want to offer compassion and kindness to those most affected by the continuing waves of hate crimes that plague our nation.
Today is a good day and all the days that follow are good days to offer some concrete support to all who have been victimized by hate. The list is very long. Most recently, our Asian American and Pacific Islander colleagues and students have read about and/ or experienced almost daily attacks and affronts. Our Black brothers and sisters have seen no reduction in the many forms of systematic racism that constrain them. Legislators in some states seek to disallow rights for transgender people while also plotting to disenfranchise those who struggle in poverty. Indigenous communities are being decimated by COVID-19 as a direct result of centuries of mistreatment. Attacks on synagogues and mosques continue and those with different abilities remain marginalized.
Each of us must make the difficult and personal journey to develop true empathy for all. We must be vulnerable enough to see and hear others as they are, not as we imagine them to be. We must experience uncomfortable truths with no defensiveness. We have to believe that our nation is not some fixed pie of resources that must be hoarded, but rather a gift that can be infinitely expanded.
There are histories between and among us that create barriers to acceptance, but I think the greatest barriers are desire and fear. Humans have the tendency to amass and then protect possessions, land, and privilege, and to fear their loss. This fear fuels endless wars and societal structures that create winners and losers. Some of us may even imagine there’s no other way.
Let’s create the other way at The Beach. Let’s figuratively and literally walk with one another for safety and for deeper understanding. Let’s always reach out to one another when there’s a tragedy motivated by hatred. Let’s examine ourselves and our visible and invisible policies, norms, practices, and biases that systematically disadvantage others. Let’s vary our analyses of issues from individuals to systems. Let’s not fear difference. Our national and campus tents are big enough for a lot of variation as long as there is a common commitment to equity and justice. Our economy can grow to lift up the entire nation. No one needs to be left behind at CSULB or in the United States of America.
I have read that we live in a continuously expanding universe. Imagine that as a signal that we can expand our circle of love, kindness, and real care to a continuously larger circle of people. We’re just one campus, but if we can accomplish the OneBeach aspiration, that will be singular and a reflection of the greatness of the American experiment with a democracy in which all are created equal and all are guaranteed full protection under just laws.
Jane Close Conoley, Ph.D.