June 3, 2020
To: Members of the Campus Community
Dear Members of the Campus Community,
In the past week, many other college and university presidents and I issued letters to our communities denouncing recent racist incidents, violence against black people and the legacy of racism in our country. As we have been making these statements, individuals across the country have been moved to come together to express their outrage and to demand change. Many of us have joined in these demonstrations to stand in solidarity and to make our voices heard in the vitally important demand for equality, justice and change.
In my previous message, I highlighted the violence experienced by black men, and I neglected to recognize that black women, girls, and boys are impacted by the same. I sincerely apologize that my message caused members of our community to feel unseen. The names that were heavy on my mind and in my heart at the moment I wrote, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Christian Cooper, all happen to be men, but they have not crowded out Breonna Taylor and the many other black people of all ages and genders that experience violence, hatred, bigotry and bias every day in our country.
As I sat to write this letter, it was clear that this needed to be a different kind of letter, and one that is informed by my own identity as a white, Catholic, Jesuit priest and President.
Like many of you, I am deeply concerned about the future of the country as our divisions continue to grow. Even more, I am lifting up the black and African American community in our present moment - reflecting both on the past racial history of our country and the continued struggles around racism and racial violence. In so doing, I do not want to ignore many other diverse communities that have also been ostracized and dehumanized. The confluence of the disproportionate impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and these deplorable acts of racial violence have laid bare deep divisions within our country and shed a harsh light on the brokenness of our society. As a Christian and Catholic, I cannot stand idle in the face of this serious sin and oppressive injustice. Similarly, as the leader of this Jesuit Catholic institution, I cannot allow us to miss this moment to bring about real change.
We, at Holy Cross, are called to see “God in all things” and to reverence the God-given dignity of every human being. We are called to live into a great mission of reconciliation and justice. Therefore, from the perspective of Faith and our Jesuit identity, I suggest some reflection questions to serve as a starting point for future decisions:
- What does a Catholic, Jesuit response to racism look like in this current moment?
- Our mission guides us to hold a “preferential option” for those on the margins, what does this mean in concrete terms for us in the classroom, in the student experience, and in how we engage one another as members of a diverse community?
Our collective response to these questions must point the way to a better future. The solutions we generate must be fundamentally different. And there is a role for each of us--students, faculty, and staff--to play.
You received a letter this morning sharing opportunities to gather as a community and to engage in reflection, listening, healing, and most importantly discussion about how we move forward and impact change. These are but our first steps. I urge you to participate with me. Together, we will determine the actions we will undertake to enact change within our Holy Cross community and to drive systemic change in our nation.
Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.