Statement on Structural Racism at University of Missouri

Counseling Psychologists are part of a group of past U of Missouri professors who are speaking out about racism at UM.  This group issued the following statement.

MU Former Faculty of Color

Statement on Structural Racism at MU in Support of Concerned Student 1950

We are a group of faculty of color who were previously employed as tenured or tenure-track faculty at the University of Missouri, Columbia (MU) and have since left the institution. Our reasons for leaving MU are multiple and varied. However, we all agree that part of the reason for our decision to change institutions rested on our experience related to being racial and ethnic minorities on a predominantly White campus.

apa15-group-photo-979x551The recent events at MU are long standing and embedded in a historical context of racial oppression. Overt acts of vandalism have been ongoing. In 2010, two White male students scattered cotton balls on the Gaines Oldham Black Culture Center during Black History Month, invoking images of slaveholding plantations. The students were arrested, charged with a hate crime, plead guilty to a misdemeanor, and left the university. During Black History Month in 2011, “nigger month” was spray painted on a statue outside of a residence hall building by a White male student. He was arrested, charged with vandalism, and left the university. The Legion of Black Collegians has faced repeated harassment for their annual
“Black Homecoming” event. There are numerous other incidents that have been reported to the administration over the years that have not been widely publicized, and we are aware that some of these incidents were kept secret in order to avoid negative publicity. Countless students have shared with us their experiences of being called “nigger” while walking on campus and fearing for their safety. Moreover, racial microaggressions are rampant. Faculty and students report feeling tokenized, encountering hostile stares, and their intelligence doubted. The university’s inability to retain faculty of color contributes to these subtle, everyday racialized experiences. We as faculty of color have also faced hostility from students and in systemic racist practices that are embedded in the larger institution at MU.

We write this letter to affirm our support for the Concerned Student 1950 and numerous faculty, staff and administrators who still work at the institution and continue to face obstacles associated with race, gender and class. One of the demands of Concerned Student 1950 is “to increase the percentage of Black faculty and staff campus wide to 10%”. The number of Black tenure/tenure-track faculty is miniscule and has hovered around 3% for the past 5 years (recent data reported on MU Diversity website). While we agree with the need for more Black (and other racial ethnic minority) faculty on campus, it is important that MU be able to retain such talented faculty. In this letter, we document our collective experiences and observations of interpersonal and structural racial oppression while at MU, and the impact on faculty of color. Many of the sentiments have not changed from the Report of the Task Force for Campus Climate and Training produced more than 10 years ago by a campus-wide task force chaired by one of the coauthors of this statement. Many of the recommendations from that report have been left unaccomplished despite longstanding and repeated efforts to see them through to fruition.

With this history in mind, we draw your attention to the following points:

1. Tokenism is a problem but it has been treated like a solution. For example, as long as there are a handful of representative people of color on a committee or in a department, there is an
assumption that there is no more discussion needed. Rarely are issues of institutional oppression or inequity addressed. Being the only, or one of a few, faculty of color in a department is an alienating experience which can contribute to faculty of color leaving the institution. Interacting with colleagues who minimize the challenges faced by faculty of color contribute to this alienation. In many cases, being the only faculty of color leads to higher service loads.

2. Compositional diversity is emphasized almost exclusively over inclusion and a campus climate that truly values diversity. Repeatedly, when problems related to diversity and inclusion are identified, the solution seems to be recruitment of more students of color, recruitment of more faculty of color, recruitment of more staff of color. These so-called solutions persistently seem to be rhetorical and lack substance or resources. In addition, the narrow focus on increasing the numbers (or percentages) of people of color among students, faculty, staff or administrators ignores some of the central problems that prevent the university from retaining those who come to Mizzou–recruitment gains cannot be sustained when the campus climate for diversity and inclusion are so consistently ignored.

3. Students can and do harass faculty in ways that are dismissed and ignored. Many of us have multiple experiences of having students question our legitimacy as faculty, questioning our competencies or capabilities as instructors, as scholars, as intellectuals. Harassment from students is a frequent reality for faculty of color, and our consultations with our colleagues or department chairs and others have frequently been rebuked, dismissed, and ignored. Yet when we consult with one another we find that we share very similar experiences that are also recognized and documented in the scholarly literature. There is pervasive rhetoric at Mizzou about valuing diversity and about the importance of teaching, but in our experience many faculty of color live in isolation because of everyday harassment and microaggressions delivered by students who feel empowered by a culture of denial. Student harassment and hostility towards issues of diversity often leads to lower teaching evaluations among faculty of color. These factors can ultimately affect tenure decisions and retention.

4. While there are White faculty allies, for the most part activism and issues of diversity on campus are relegated to marginalized faculty to advocate for themselves and the students of color. This is true not only for on campus but also in the curriculum. Discussion of race and racism are regulated to specific designated courses and rarely discussed in other courses. Faculty of color are often the ones teaching courses related to race and racism, these courses typically aren’t required, and White students consider faculty of color as pushing an agenda, thus raising defenses in the classroom. Rarely are issues of diversity, race, or racism explored within larger departments when policies and procedures are considered, or with regards to graduate admissions and retention.

5. Opportunities for advancement are few and have many barriers for faculty of color, which is also something that is dismissed and ignored when concerns about diversity at MU are raised. For example, in 2013, out of 865 executive, administrative, and managerial staff, only 8.44% were non White, 4.16% were Black. MU lacks institutionalized structure for mentoring faculty of color and as a result, those who are promoted are often those with access to informal strategies for success, institutional acceptance, and non-institutionalized or hidden mentoring from White colleagues.

6. Anti-inclusion sentiments are publicly displayed by some white faculty and administrators by the shear force of positional power, often ignoring scholarly evidence for inclusive excellence. For example, a longstanding proposal (since 1988) for a diversity course requirement in the undergraduate general education curriculum was introduced in 2011 and again 2013. Although the proposal was passed by the Faculty Council on both occasions, the faculty vote was negative both times. The debate on campus about adding a general education diversity requirement has consistently included anti-inclusion sentiments that run counter to the solid research and scholarship that demonstrate the benefits and positive outcomes of diversity in the curriculum. Experts and advocates of diversity are commonly ignored, dismissed or shouted down.

7. Political cowardice is portrayed as a legitimate institutional policy position, especially when elected or appointed officials are involved in the debate. There are countless examples in our collective experiences across time when MU administrators have argued that politics in the State of Missouri are averse to policies on campus that favor diversity. This was true when sexual orientation was eliminated from the nondiscrimination clause at the system level. It was true when same-sex partners were denied benefits through discriminatory practices. It was true when state senators used intimidation tactics to “investigate” the relationship between MU and Planned Parenthood. These are only highly publicized cases. Some of us are also aware of other instances when political cowardice has been used as an excuse to avoid public efforts to recruit faculty and students of color, to advance the diversity requirement in the undergraduate general education curriculum, and in addressing sexual violence on campus. Some of us are also aware that political cowardice resulted in the failure of upper administration to address faculty of color being verbally and physically threatened by a senior faculty member.

8. The recent focus on MU’s AAU status has placed priority on specific metrics in which faculty of color are often not represented. Supporting and awarding research funded by large federal grants ignores deep structural and epistemological issues. Federal funders often prioritize certain types of research, such as experimental studies, that have been regarded as culturally insensitive by scholars throughout history. The push for status within AAU also limits conversations of “rigor” to quantifiable metrics such as citation counts and impact factors. These metrics privilege scientific journals with broad and general readership, which have historically excluded scholarship pertaining to cultural context and racial and ethnic minorities. It also privileges disciplines whose primary dissemination is publication in peer reviewed journals, such as social and natural sciences, and places disciplines such as the humanities at a disadvantage, which traditionally publish books, monographs, and chapters.
9. Faculty of color are often expected to do extraordinary amounts of service, particularly pertaining to diversity related issues, above and beyond their White counterparts. Faculty of color are often asked to serve on diversity committees which not only take time but also emotional energy. They conduct hidden service through additional advising loads, when students of color rely on faculty of color for validation and mentorship. They often serve in service of the surrounding community, to support local efforts of communities of color outside of the university. At Mizzou, like most other Research Intensive institutions, these acts of service are minimized and discounted at the time of merit evaluations, promotion, and tenure. The extraordinary amount of service of faculty of color is highlighted in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article.

10. Faculty face many of the same overt acts of racism and racial microaggressions that students have faced. From being called “nigger” by White men in cars to having our competence explicitly questioned and disrespected by students. Students actively resist learning about race and racism in classes and complain about having racist ideologies challenged. Racial marginalization and alienation also occurs when interacting with faculty colleagues who have little experience with faculty of color. Faculty of color are often mistaken as “outsiders” at the university given historical assumptions of who professors are and what they look like; faculty of color defy those popular notions. Faculty of color are often left to navigate hostile students and classroom dynamics on their own without explicit support from their colleagues. These experiences form a culture of hostility (at worst) and neglect (at best).

While the President and Chancellor’s resignations are a small start, it will take much more for institutional change to follow. We hope that this statement can inform real progress as MU works to heal and grow from its organizational and racialized trauma.


Zakiya R. Adair Ph.D. MU Assistant Professor Women and Gender Studies 2010-2015

Kevin O. Cokley, Ph.D., MU Associate Professor of Black Studies; Educational, School, & Counseling Psychology 2004-2007

Bryana H. French, Ph.D., MU Assistant Professor Black Studies; Educational, School, & Counseling Psychology 2010-2014

Treva B. Lindsey, Ph.D., MU Assistant Professor Women and Gender Studies 2010-2013 Alejandro Morales, Ph.D. MU Assistant Professor Educational, School, & Counseling Psychology, 2009 2013

Erica Morales, Ph.D. MU Assistant Professor Sociology 2012-2014

Helen A. Neville, Ph.D. MU Associate Professor Black Studies; Educational, School, & Counseling Psychology 1998-2002

Kenneth Wang, Ph.D. MU Assistant Professor Educational, School, & Counseling Psychology 2009-2014

Roger L. Worthington Ph.D, MU Professor, Assistant Deputy Chancellor & Chief Diversity Officer, 1997-2014

Deadly Force: Post Ferguson Policing

Dr. Jameca Falconer

Jameca Falconer, Ph.D., Director of Counseling and Psychological Services | Logan University

Darren Wilson’s account of what happened on the evening of August 9, 2014 has been in question from the very beginning. He has said that he was in his police SUV on Aug. 9 when Michael Brown Jr., standing outside, struggled with him through the vehicle window and caused Wilson’s gun to fire twice. Brown was struck at least once in the hand, and ran. Wilson gave chase, and Brown turned back. Wilson then shot him multiple times, explaining later that he feared for his life.

Had Wilson been trained in a different manner, both he and Michael Brown Jr. would have escaped the situation alive. Wilson could have been trained to do something different to allow him to apprehend Michael Brown without putting himself in a situation that made him feel deadly force was the only safe response. The type of police training that involves officers exercising multiple strategies of problem solving and retreat is called “tactical retreat.” One of the options for Darren Wilson on that day could have been to step on the gas and drive away from the encounter, while keeping Brown in sight and waiting for backup. If we can train police officers to avoid putting themselves in danger, you will see them use less force to get themselves out of danger.

A Justice Department investigation opened after Brown’s shooting has found routine patterns and practices of racism in Ferguson, including the excessive use of force and unjustified arrests. Ferguson, Missouri is one of the municipalities that surround the city of Saint Louis, Missouri. Many of the patterns of excessive force and discrimination are reflected in neighboring municipalities and across the Saint Louis metropolitan area.

Most of the “shoot first and ask questions later” police behavior can be traced back to police training in the academy. In the academy, the concept of officer safety is heavily emphasized. Rookie officers are taught what is widely known as the “first rule of law enforcement”: An officer’s main goal every day is to go home at the end of their shift. But cops live in a hostile world. They learn that every encounter, every individual is a potential threat. It is how they react to the potential threats that have caused uproar in urban communities.

Police Training in the academy and beyond needs to compensate for the unconscious racial biases that lead officers to perceive a greater threat from Black and Brown men than from others. Officers are not unique in that regard; implicit racial bias is depressingly common in society. But it is of special concern in the context of policing. Because officers use more force when they perceive a greater threat, unconscious bias can lead officers to react more aggressively when confronting Black and Brown men than they would when confronting others in otherwise identical situations. As we’ve seen too many times, the results are beyond tragic. Although it may be impossible to completely eliminate every aspect of unconscious bias, more sophisticated training could lead to more precise threat identifications, correcting for racial bias that officers may not even be aware of.

The Ferguson Commission, formed after the shooting death of Michael Brown, released recommendations for training police officers to avoid deadly confrontations. The commission called for training in tactics, anti-bias and officer wellness. Part of their recommendations directly relate to services typically provided by psychologists. Training that would include dealing with those with behavioral or mental issues, how to give verbal commands, implicit bias and stereotypes, officer wellness, stress indicators, and coping techniques are all areas that we as psychologists are skilled in. This is an opportunity for psychologists to be a part of the solution as it relates to violence toward Black and Brown individuals.

Police reform requires more than changes to training, of course. The policing mission needs to be focused on keeping communities safe and free from fear—including fear of officers themselves. There are profound racial tensions in law enforcement that will only be healed through a long-term, sustained commitment to cooperative policing and community engagement. I urge psychologists-especially those in close proximity to urban communities- to become involved in these types of efforts.

Black (Girls’) Lives Matter


Danice Brown, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Counseling Psychology Graduate Program, Towson University

Black families and communities have the critical task of preparing Black youth and young adults for the realities of racial hostility and inequality perpetuated in interpersonal, institutional, and societal arenas. That task is accomplished largely through racial socialization, a process through which Black families attempt to raise emotionally healthy children, with a positive self-concept and esteem, in environments that may be racially oppressive and hostile. Psychologists have encouraged the use of such strategies among families of color and have advocated for incorporation of this process in therapeutic work with Black families and individuals as a strength-based approach to psychotherapy. While decades of psychological research has documented and detailed the racial socialization process among Black families, the recent deaths of young Black men at the hands of law enforcement officers created a larger forum for a discourse of the ways that families prepare Black youth for racial injustice. However, the current climate has also highlighted the lack of conversation regarding the racial injustice faced by Black girls and women.

As the events surrounding the death of Michael Brown began to unfold, the nation soon learned many of the messages that Black families gave to Black boys about racial barriers and injustice, the automatic negative bias their sons face, and parents’ fears about the safety of their sons when interacting with police. This event seemed to serve as a catalyst for a larger discussion about the racial experiences of Black men and boys in the United States. Thousands have gathered for rallies in honor of Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, and more recently Freddie Gray.

On April 22, 2015 a rally was held in New York City in remembrance of Rekia Boyd, as well as the other Black women and girls who have been killed by police. Unlike the large crowds that gathered to discuss the racial injustice that impacted Black boys, a small crowd of approximately 100 people attended. This may reflect the lack of conversations happening in larger society and possibly within Black communities regarding the racial injustice faced by Black women and girls.

In a recently published study examining the socialization practices of Black parents following the death of Trayvon Martin, Anita Thomas and Sha’kema Blackmon found that approximately 86% of the parents in the study reported that they were more concerned for the safety of boys than girls. Parents felt that Black boys were more likely to be the targets of racism than girls and were more likely to face fear based stereotypes depicting them as criminals and gang members. In contrast, those parents who were worried about girls were more concerned about aspects of their self-esteem, dating options, and the importance of them maintaining independence.

However, with the deaths of Rekia Boyd (age 22), Tanisha Anderson (age 37), Aiyanna Jones (age 7), and several other Black women and girls, one could argue for the necessity of more conversations regarding the importance of preparing Black girls for the ways in which they may face racial inequality and injustice. A recent African American Policy Forum (AAPF) report lead by Kimberle` Williams Crenshaw (Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected) described the role of racial inequality in the lives of Black girls and the complexity of their intersecting racial and gender related oppression. One of the major findings indicated that Black girls were often suspended, expelled, or prosecuted when involved in school conflicts as opposed to other resolutions being sought. Yet, concerns regarding the punitive treatment of Black girls are not often included in discussions of the school to prison pipeline.

The AAPF report recommended the inclusion of Black girls in research, advocacy, and policy discussions addressing racial injustice and inequality. Psychologists may have an important role in working with families, individuals, and communities to understand and address oppression among Black females. Further research is needed exploring the psychological ramifications of the intersecting racial and gender oppression among Black women. Additionally, psychologists may discuss racial socialization practices in therapeutic work with families, highlighting the importance of acknowledging how issues of racial injustice and police brutality impact Black women and men. It is essential to address the unfortunate realities of racial injustice for both Black boys and girls, providing clear communication that the lives of Black women and girls are valued equally with men and boys.


Racism at 40mph: Driving While Black and Female

Dr. Jameca Falconer

Jameca Falconer, Ph.D., Director of Counseling and Psychological Services | Logan University

Recent events, including the shooting death of Michael Brown, a young unarmed African American man in Ferguson, Missouri have re-awakened our nation to the continuing problem of race-based violence and racial profiling across the United States. These painful events brought needed national attention to the ongoing problems and complex inter-relationships of race and violence in this country. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defines racial profiling as a form of discrimination adding that discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion or nationality undermines our basic human rights.

Nowhere is this racial profiling more evident than in the driving/traffic ticket arena. Many American drivers get pulled over for traffic violations every day of the week, but it’s important to examine who is getting pulled over and why. A suburban Detroit police officer was recently seen on dash-cam video dragging a Black man (Floyd Dent) from his car during a traffic stop and kicking and punching him repeatedly. Recent Justice Department statistics suggest that a Black driver is about 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than a White driver or about 23 percent more likely than a Hispanic driver. In addition, Black drivers are more than twice as likely to be subject to police searches as White drivers; and they are nearly twice as likely to not be given any reason for the traffic stop ( Thus, “Driving while Black” is, undeniably, a measurable phenomenon.

I can recount the numerous times that I’ve been stopped by the police in my car or followed in the store. One incident stands out in my mind. It occurred in the spring of 1993 as I was driving home from college. I was stopped by the police for speeding. However, a second police car was called to the scene and if that wasn’t enough, they called for the drug search dogs. Why? I guess because an African American female college student looks suspiciously like someone who would be transporting kilos of cocaine through Louisiana. Nevertheless, they found nothing and I was released without even a speeding ticket. Why? Apparently I had not been speeding after all.

So what happens when a person has been a victim of racial profiling? Speaking from personal experience, as a victim, I felt helpless, violated and angry. Victims of race-based profiling or discrimination know that they have suffered, yet they incur further psychological damage because the discrimination goes unacknowledged.

Patterns of racial profiling have a severe poisonous effect on the self-esteem of minority individuals who understand that they are often seen as unwelcome in this post-racial American climate. It begs the question, how do we put an end to this type of discrimination? Here are six steps to get this country moving in the right direction.

  1. Promotion of a sense of individual responsibility and “speaking out” against racism. Observers and bystanders must not be silent.
  2. Confrontation by the majority group (i.e., White Americans) and an exploration of the effects of these prejudices on minority groups. The majority’s role in minority problems must be actively examined and acknowledged.
  3. Begin a national conversation about race, violence, and the related unresolved traumatic history in our country.
  4. Educate teachers, pastoral care professionals and community group leaders to look for depression and behavioral problems in minority children who have been exposed to racial violence and profiling.
  5. Train law enforcement personnel in sensitivity to the psychological vulnerability of minority populations and urban communities.
  6. Examine state and local laws to see if they are designed to promote dialogue rather than to encourage violent confrontation.

Hate, Hashtags & Healing: On Social Media Social Justice


Candice Crowell, MS, Pre-Doctoral Intern, Emory University Counseling & Psychological Services

I’m an introvert, an INFJ to be exact. Not only do I process things internally, but crowds of people drain me of energy. Still, I found myself overwhelmed with grief, passion, and hurt when George Zimmerman walked free after killing Trayvon Martin. I wanted to join the many folks in cities around the country who protested this injustice, so on a rainy day I walked about a mile from my home to participate in a rally in Trayvon’s honor. About twenty minutes in, during the prayer of all things, I fainted.

I understand the critiques of social media social justice. The movements sometimes feel trendy, rather than consistent and whole-hearted. People who may not know the sociopolitical implications of what they’re hashtagging may make missteps. There are few identified leaders. However, in an age of constant connectivity, to totally discredit this as an option misses the impact of the movements, no matter how brief and disorganized they may seem. I have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. I spend more time with more people there than I do anywhere else. If I’m going to have an impact in any space, where my heightened sensitivity to crowds doesn’t threaten my power, I choose social media.

As the impact of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner non-indictments hit me, the passion and pain again became salient. It isn’t something that goes away, but it felt qualitatively heightened by the defensiveness I kept seeing. I do a pretty good job of keeping critical thinkers around me, but there were a few conversations that gave me pause. I was thoughtful about where I wanted to direct my attention during such a tumultuous time. I read and wrote some think pieces first, and I asked in Black Vernacular English, my comfort tongue, “what you gone do?” I asked my White friends, my Black friends, my other friends of color, my colleagues, and myself. The response was powerful. A good friend and colleague wrote about White privilege and how it was showing up in the many Facebook discussions she’d been having. Another friend and colleague facilitated a dialogue with his high school students, most of whom looked just like the young men who’d been slain. And because my political ethic is love, I decided to start a social media movement of love toward Black men, during a time when it seemed they needed to be reminded that they were loved and valued. #DearBlackMen was born.

For the month of December, hundreds of people across race, class, gender, and age expressed their love for Black men using that hashtag. My White friends asked, “will I look silly if I contribute?” I said, “silly to whom? I welcome your voice.” Most of my Black friends said, “I’m down,” but there was even some fear among them that they may be perceived negatively for writing a note of love to Black men. In a world of screenshots and going viral, what you say is said forever. I said, “I welcome your voice.”

It was successful. There was an outpouring of love. Black men said they felt appreciated, loved, understood, and seen. The legacy of it lives by Googling or Facebooking #DearBlackMen.

Through this social media social justice collaboration, I was able to process and share some of my stories about the Black men in my life in a way that felt healing to them and me. I was also able to engage more people than I would have ever known in any other space, some of whom I’ve never met. I experienced solidarity through social media, doing the work of social justice my way. I took a stand without having to faint, and I invite those of you who are introverts to do the same. Here are a few ways to get started:

  1.  Choose a primary social media platform that works for you. Using all of them can be overwhelming and disorganized, but there are apps that allow you to sync all social media that you use, so that you message consistently across platforms. I chose FB because it allowed me to write more than Twitter or Instagram. The top 15 social media sites can be found here.
  2. Google your idea to look for potential collaborators. I thought of #DearBlackMen and had started drafting a call to action before I considered searching for people who were already doing this work. I found a like-minded group with a blog and Facebook page who had the same name, so we collaborated and focused our attention on that month-long movement. It increased the presence of the movement greatly.
  3. Read and share blogs. Although anyone with internet access can start a blog, they are often a good way to get conversation started on your social media platforms. Many people inside and outside of the academy subscribe to blogs because they make current events and news accessible. Just be sure you read what you repost and share, because some titles can be misleading.
  4. Have a hashtag. If there is an issue about which you are particularly passionate, create a hashtag to catalogue any posts that may be written about the issue. The hashtag feature works best on Twitter, but Facebook is tweaking the bugs in theirs. There are hashtag search engines such as TagBoard that scan social media sites to see what is being said. This allows you to join existing conversations or create your own.
  5. Invite people to converse with you publicly. One way to raise consciousness in less threatening ways is to use your social media profile as a space to have difficult dialogues. Posing questions and inviting others to chime in both facilitates conversation and gives people who view your page an opportunity to read multiple perspectives. There may be people who simply read the post, but they never comment. The positions shared on your page may be the only space where folks outside of academia see varied views. The guidelines for facilitating difficult dialogues may be helpful if you are new to this, because you do not get to control what others say. But, you can always delete any comments that you deem disrespectful or unrelated.

Dear Presidents of Predominantly White Institutions and Organizations: You Need a Plan for Racial Healing

IMG_0070Carlton E. Green, PhD, Staff Counselor, University of Maryland Counseling Center

Responses to the University of Oklahoma (OU) fraternity singing a racist chant were immediate and intense. The national headquarters of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity decided that the “chapter needed to be closed immediately.” The University of Oklahoma President, David Boren, “severed” its relationship with the fraternity.

The chant is offensive, and the public has affirmed the responses by OU and SAE. However, an important question remains: what happens after the men are removed from the campus? Will the men learn about their racist attitudes? These White male students will likely go on to become businessmen, police officers, educators, and realtors, who may possess authority to make decisions that affect people of Color (POC).

President Boren indicated, “Moments like these should be teaching moments.” Indeed, these moments present learning opportunities for leaders of predominantly White institutions (PWIs), including universities and fraternities. White administrators might consider the following strategies for addressing racist events.

Reflect on your own feelings. Racism is shocking to all people. White individuals, in particular, observing racism may experience a range of responses including anxiety, helplessness, guilt, anger, sadness, denial, disbelief, and paralysis. Create a network of anti-racist White allies with whom you can speak openly about your reactions instead of avoiding or denying your feelings.

Consult with POC to understand how the racist event may be related to a legacy of racism in your institution and to identify the current impact on POC. However, do not expect or encourage POC to take the lead in addressing racism on behalf of the institution. Afford POC space to heal their individual and group-related wounds without the burden of saving or shielding White people from racism.

Imagine that the students were your sons or nephews, and consider how you would want someone to advise or care for them. Do not “sever” ties with them, and be aware of attempts to distance yourselves from them. Distancing occurs when White people “other” the offenders (e.g., “We are not like them,” “Real Sooners are not racist.”) “Othering” decreases empathy, reduces the students to one-dimensional characters engaging in racist behavior, and denies the students’ humanity, including the capacity to make egregious, offensive mistakes. Furthermore, “othering” negates the possibility that you could also commit a similar act. Saying, “We are not like them,” inherently declares, “I would never make that mistake.”

Devise an anti-racism response to (a) acknowledge the racist event, (b) articulate your personal response to the racist incident, (c) validate the humanity of the offenders, (d) identify and empathize with the potential harm to all community members, including POC and White individuals, and (e) suggest a plan for healing the community afflicted by the racial trauma.

Propose an anti-racism action plan to (a) cease the offending organization’s activities, (b) hold students accountable for their racist actions, (b) create a detailed strategy for educating and reinstating contrite offenders, (c) identify a team of White anti-racism educators to serve as resources for the offenders, and (d) provide resources for the traumatized community members of all racial backgrounds.

Racial healing requires that White individuals act among other White people to increase understanding of how race affects individuals and organizations. Leaders of PWIs must model for White students how to have difficult conversations about race. PWIs should embrace those who commit racist acts, because the offenders present us with opportunities to planfully implement strategies for racial healing.