A Message of Support to the CAUS Community
June 3, 2020
To the College of Architecture and Urban Studies community:
Let me begin by acknowledging the courageous work of those leaders, both past and present, who have taken positive action against the inequalities, injustice, and lack of freedoms to bring about change for the better and to the benefit of all. The events of the last few months, including unnecessary deaths and acts of brutality in communities of color, and of disproportionate suffering through a pandemic, have brought the truth and urgency of that work home to us in graphic ways.
The College of Architecture and Urban Studies affirms the disturbing and painful treatment of African Americans in this country, brought about by systemic inequality and race-driven violence. We are committed to a process of listening and action, one that will promote an environment of respect and inclusive discourse for the benefit of our students, faculty, staff, and the nation as a whole. As a community, we can no longer remain silent.
Having arrived in America some three years ago, I feel that compared to those who have grown up here, I can have only a limited understanding of the diabolical web that perpetuates the kinds of racial injustices and divides that we see played out before us in my new home. From my Australian perspective, and acknowledging that Australia has its own horrific histories of discrimination, I have come to realize over time that an intentional system of public recognition of indigenous lives and cultures in my home country has helped us make progress. These repeated acknowledgements made a difference in micro ways that quickly multiplied in the actions and attitudes of individuals. They opened up the opportunity for new kinds of engagements and conversations. These systems of acknowledgment and “welcome to country” ceremonies have certainly not eliminated racism in Australia, but they are one way that institutions and the people within them are moving forward.
My hope is that by collectively acknowledging our present reality here in America, we are taking an important and effective step. It is time to take serious stock, to look again at some of the foundational ideologies, bigotries, and biases that blind us. These recent events have highlighted for us the extent of the societal and economic challenges in this country, particularly the impacts this disparity has on access to health, education, and civil liberties, and the manner in which these disparities contribute to the institutionalization of racism. They point also to the areas in which we have the greatest opportunity to make a difference.
The College of Urban Studies will continue in its efforts to create a more just and equitable environment, as called for by President Tim Sands and Vice President Menah Pratt-Clarke in their recent statement to the Virginia Tech community. It is our responsibility to engage in actions and conversations that ensure the dignity and respect of all citizens. Through education, outreach, and research, we can realise our Ut Prosim transformational mission, and we look forward to the steps ahead.
Richard Blythe, Dean
Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies