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GTU Voices - Dismantling Racism Now: A Letter of Lament and Hope from Students, Faculty, and Staff of the Graduate Theological Union

Dismantling Racism Now: A Letter of Lament and Hope from Students, Faculty, and Staff of the Graduate Theological Union

By GTU Staff, Students, and Faculty

We at the Graduate Theological Union are a community of scholar-innovators from across a spectrum of beliefs and backgrounds who are committed to learning from the world’s wisdom and bringing transformative impact to the larger world for the greater good. 

We grieve the death of George Floyd and the countless others who have suffered and died because of racially motivated injustice and brutality. We lament the prejudices that plague our nation and world, as well as its systems, and we demand to see its end.

In response to Dr. Uriah Kim’s message reinforcing our institution’s commitment to advocating for the end of hatred and racism in all its forms, GTU community members shared the changes they would affect if they had the power to do so, as well as the changes they are committing to making now. 

Our diverse voices call for the following changes:

"I will support efforts to elect a government that will provide equally for its population and will be a global example of equity, inter-dependence and cooperation with all.”
 - Deena Aranoff 

 “I would dismantle immediately the structures that have allowed systemic social injustice to persist in this country for so long." 
- Kathryn Barush

“I call for thoroughgoing reform of the justice system from policing, through arrest and bail policies, sentencing, conditions in prison, and helping formerly incarcerated persons to re-enter and thrive in society.”
- Judith Berling

“I would open hearts—I would make it impossible for any officer of the law to consider using excessive force because we would all know each other's intrinsic value, we would all recognize each other as fundamentally connected, belonging to each other.”
- Kelly Colwell

“If I had powers to promote change, I would mandate ongoing programs and forums for intercultural competencies, nonviolent communication, and training in civil discourse for all public service members of our society and our community here at GTU.”
- Marianne Farina

“If I had the power to, I would end capitalism, reform the government, abolish the police and prisons, and place the needs of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed first. However, a just world will not come into being unless we uproot the instinct to fear our divine selves, to fear others, and to be selfish, and in its place plant fruitful self-awareness of our communion with each other, the earth, all reality, and the divine which sustains it all.” 
- Mark Guevarra

"We are all born with a voice. All deserve to be heard, unmuted by the systemic injustices that amplify some above others. This is a birthright I would help to preserve."
- GTU Community Member

If I had the power to, I would... "ensure that governments are equitable and just at all levels, dismantle systems of oppression, and end militarism."
- Munir Jiwa

“If I had the power, I would work with most diligent fervor, care and consistency towards ensuring that each [and] every voice/body is authentically incorporated into the Circle, giving keenest attention to those from the farthest of margins, who are accustomed to being ignored, shunned and silenced—on whose neck the knee of the endemically racist and unjust system is so unrelentingly pinned.” 
- Gideon Mbui

“The video recording documenting a man pleading for relief and calling for his mother as life slowly ebbs is difficult to watch. Had there been a bit of caring and fellow-feeling, we would have been spared an outpouring of grief and rage. What is clear is the officer was not guided by a life-affirming moral compass. I would thus insert life-affirming moral education into schools. From the experience of the Battle for Okinawa, I remind people of horrors and suffering wrought by war. The Dhammapada reminds us to: Be gentle with anger, do good to evil; be generous to the miser, truthful to the liar.”
- Ronald Y. Nakasone

“If I could, I would change the structure of our government so that the voices of the people are heard by eliminating the antiquated electoral system, significantly reducing unilateral presidential powers, and making unlawful the ways that corporations and powerful individuals exert undue influence on elected officials and government agencies.”
- GTU Staff Member

You have, indeed, come down into this struggling world to help a blind and suffering humanity, to open its eyes to the Light, to bring bliss here into the heart of grief, to make your life a bridge from earth to heaven for humanity. And if you wish to save this laboring world, then you must share its vast universal suffering, you must fully bear the sorrow that you wish to heal. They who wish to usher in the day have got to traverse the darkest night....Those who hope to save the world have to share its pain; for if they do not know what grief is, how can they find a cure for grief? 
- Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, 1951. Submitted with edits by Rita D. Sherma

“I would abolish the police force and the prison industrial complex, while creating new ways to rehabilitate and maintain order that are based on compassion, empathy and true justice.”
- Maude Wilson

As community members from across the spectrum of belief, we commit to making the following changes now for the common good.

“I will support efforts to elect a government that will provide equally for its population and will be a global example of equity, inter-dependence and cooperation with all.”
- Deena Aranoff

“I will teach my young children to be anti-racist and encourage them to speak out against injustice.”
- Kathryn Barush

“I will pray continually for justice; listen to, encourage, and support persons working for justice, especially persons of color; engage in dialogue with white friends/family who do not grasp the issue of systematic racism.”
- Judith Berling

“I commit to using every platform I have, including the pulpit, the classroom, my own friendships and family relationships to address racial injustice, and I commit to putting my money and my vote in the service of racial justice.”
- Kelly Colwell 

"I commit to healing the injustice of racism and discrimination through my thoughts, words, and actions in my home, communities, classroom, and relationships. I will work to use my academic platform, no matter how small or large, to bring awareness to issues that divide people on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, class, and culture. I will donate my time and resources, when available, to serve organizations committed to healing the scars of discrimination, and I will actively support policies that support a more equitable and just future for BIPOC.”  
- Laura M. Dunn

“I would highlight the philosophical and theological writings of underrepresented scholars and scholars at risk in each of the courses I teach, in my academic research and writing, and invite these scholars to partner with us here at GTU.”
- Marianne Farina 

“I will strive to find, hear, and learn from the poor, marginalized, and oppressed. My academic work will strive to tear down structures of oppression and walk new paths of justice.”
- Mark Guevarra

"Hope and faith are a powerful force—the torch that can drive our actions to create true change. These are the qualities to which I recommit each day in striving and service to support the right of all humankind to enjoy a life of peace, safety, and freedom."
- GTU Community Member

"I will continue to pray, work and advocate for equity and justice, keep my privilege in check, teach and work to decolonize and dismantle systems of oppression, including white supremacy, ethnonationalism and war, uplift the lives of the oppressed in all the ways I can, and strive to take care of and live in harmony with the environment."
- Munir Jiwa 

“As a Black student, whose minority status is further aggravated by my Alien-ness (non-migrant status), hence whose best survival tactic is more often than not silence under pressure (replete with generous, graceful smiles and all), I commit to readily and boldly, albeit respectively speak up against all manner of oppression and exclusion, even when some of my ‘Get your knee off my neck’ and ‘I Can’t Breathe!’ pleas appear to land on tone-deaf ears. All this even in supposedly progressive and predominantly religious spaces!”
- Gideon Mbui 

“What I can do is to see the ‘other’ as a person with feelings, family, hopes, despair—a person with life experiences different from mine—a human being striving to get along in life, a person to be heard and not an issue to be solved.”
- GTU Staff Member

“I am building freedom and justice work into my lifestyle, committing to support existing and new organizations in the struggle for police and prison reform for the rest of my life. I am working to create a compassion/humility/anti-racism training program that can help officers within this current system to dismantle their racist warrior mentality and develop compassion and humility within.”
- Maude Wilson 

To add your voice to those of the students, staff, and faculty of the GTU calling for change, sharing their grief, and hoping for a better future, please email justiceforall@gtu.edu

 

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