Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives is reflecting on and mourning Tony McDade, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others whose names we do and don’t know but whose lives have all been taken by recent and historic, senseless police and vigilante violence and systemic racism. We mourn with you.
Our words cannot fill the gaping absence or ease the pain of our community, but our actions can be a part of addressing systemic causes of inequality, inequity and racism. We are committed to reflecting on the role of our Emory community and of our office in both contributing to the problem and to realizing true justice and racial equity together.
As of 2017, the sustainability in higher education field was composed of 88% White, 3% Asian, 2% Hispanic or Latino, 1% Black or African American, 0% American Indian/Metis or Alaska Native, and 5% multi-racial professionals. We work to envision and implement energy, waste, water, transportation, climate, building, planning, food systems, purchasing, academic and research solutions that support justice and a high quality of life for all. We work at the intersection of environmentalism and social justice, advocating for protection of the planet and for all people, but most of us have not had the lived experience as a Black person, an Asian person, a Hispanic or Latinx person, an Indigenous person, or a Person of Color. We have acknowledged this reality and worked for many years to build genuine and mutual relationships and partnerships with campus and community members of diverse lived experiences to ensure that our efforts serve all and do not unintentionally externalize the negative impacts onto communities of color as has happened and continues to happen so often. However, there is much more work we can do.
The OSI is humbly reevaluating ourselves, our department, and our work to ensure we are hearing, embodying, and living out the calls for change to do the hard work to root out racism in all of its forms:
- Our staff will complete “Diversity: Inclusion in the Workplace” and “Managing Bias” trainings
- Our staff will direct our OSI General Sustainability & Social Justice Incentives Fund resources primarily to project teams who are seeking funds for racial equity projects, programs, and research
- Our staff will continue to share staff time to ensure the success of the Emory Votes Initiative (EVI) to provide all eligible voters in the Emory community the information and access needed to exercise their rights
- Our staff will continue to share staff time to assist with implementing and evaluating Emory’s Business Diversity Strategic Framework
- Our staff will continue to advocate for an annual assessment of campus climate to evaluate the attitudes, perceptions and behaviors of faculty, staff, administrators and students, including the experiences of underrepresented groups
- Our staff will continue to advocate for transparent use of this data to evaluate gender and racial pay gaps and to evaluate Emory’s progress toward hiring and retention of Black, Latino and other persons of color, as outlined in the Black Student Demands (2015)
- Our staff will continue to advocate for faculty and staff experiencing disparities in promotion and pay because of their race and/or gender
- Our staff will work to better use our communications platforms to exhibit the roots of disparity and injustice tied to environmental degradation, climate change, and placement of polluting industries more often in communities of color
- Our staff will work to better communicate the multidimensional injustices of endemic poverty and income and wealth disparities in Black communities in Atlanta and how they are connected to inequitable health impacts, including the currently relevant COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates, access to testing services, and access to transportation for connecting to services and opportunities
These are first steps in a lifetime of work that must happen to dig up the deep roots of systemic racism in this country and to become the friends, supporters, co-workers, and administrators we need to be. We recognize that the culture of our institution and our nation needs to change. We have miles and miles to go. We do not have all of the answers or always know the best strategies, but we will keep listening, learning and evolving to rise to serve the needs of and to protect the lives of our community members.
We envision a world in which everyone can enjoy the safety, freedom and access to clean air and water in their neighborhoods; to greenspace for bird watching, running, and general enjoyment; to a just energy system that supports climate solutions and people; to nutritious and nourishing food grown in our communities; to meaningful work in a regenerative and inclusive economy; and to self-defined and self-realized happiness, hopefulness, love and opportunity. We are getting back to work to channel this grief, anger and sadness into action–action re-centered on solidarity, reflection, and justice.
This is a dynamic, working plan, and we welcome your feedback. Please leave us your thoughts in the comments section below.
With respect, light and love,