On Friday, May 29, 2020 I sent the following message to the San José State University College of Social Sciences.


Dear CoSS family-

We are all shocked and saddened by the tragic events in Minneapolis, Minnesota over the past few days. As human beings, many of us are overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation and the intense emotions it has created. As members of an institution that strives for social justice, we may feel discouraged and outraged. And, as social scientists, we are wondering how our disciplines and our knowledge can contribute to solutions. I have three thoughts about steps we can take.

First, keep doing the job we are here to do. We are all educators, be we faculty who have direct instructional duties and student mentorship roles, ACCESS staff who advise students about both academic and life choices, or departmental and dean’s office staff who professionally engage the public as well as faculty and students. By continuing to excel in your jobs, you keep SJSU functioning as an institution of higher education that creates and disseminates knowledge about our social worlds and solutions to social problems. Thank you!

Second, many of you are very interested in racial and economic justice issues, which are at the forefront in the developments in Minneapolis (and in other cities around the country in protest of George Floyd’s death). There are many resources on the web about what you can personally do to help. Here are a few links, but there are many other groups and ways you can get involved. Feel free to send me a note if you would like to discuss anything of interest.

Finally, you can continue to educate yourself. Ibram X. Kendi provides this reading list, and certainly others in the college have additional suggestions. In particular, I recommend the article “Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay — Chances Are They’re Not.” It articulates why this has been an especially tough week for those of us who identify as Black or African American. You may want to send a note of support to Black/African American friends and coworkers.

Some of you know that Minneapolis is my spiritual hometown. I lived there for 14 years while on the faculty at the U of Minnesota. Although a Southerner by birth and resident of Atlanta, GA from age 2 to 22, I eventually developed a strong identification as a Midwesterner, and now specifically see myself as a Minnesotan…even though I’ve now lived in California for five years. [My Facebook page lists my hometown as Minneapolis.] I’ve been checking in with Twin Cities friends all day today. They are all doing OK, and are working to support each other.

I am also doing OK, as I am energized by helping others get through the difficult times caused by COVID-19 and various social instabilities. And we WILL get through this disheartening period, and then redouble our efforts to make the world a more just and democratic place.

Be well, everyone!