“They Are Not Us”—An Open Letter

To Students, Faculty and Staff:

The Eastern Michigan University Police Department is investigating the presence of a business card advocating hate and racism found in Halle Library this morning. The card was quickly removed once discovered.

I want to stress again, as I did last fall, that such attacks are hurtful to all of us in the campus community – students, faculty and staff – who work every day to make Eastern a welcoming and inclusive campus. We must continue to work together in this way, embracing our unity and common purpose in being a University of opportunity for all. These messages are not Eastern; they are not us. And they may not stop anytime soon, likely due to the actions of a few people who seek to divide our community and gain attention for their hateful messages. Indeed, these are polarizing times, calling for diligent work by all of us to further mutual understanding and support.

I assure you that this investigation and identifying those responsible will be a high priority for our Police. I also want to note that the racist vandalism incidents of last fall remain under active investigation, with police having spent hundreds of hours on that effort. Also, the $10,000 reward remains in effect for information in connection with those crimes.

There will be further updates as the situation warrants. Please join me in standing together with our students, faculty and staff and all in our community who condemn hate and racism.

I want to remind our community that we have many avenues to discuss concerns related to these matters, including our Department of Diversity and Community Involvement. In addition, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers free and confidential counseling to students seeking additional support. Students can make an appointment to talk to a counselor by calling 734-487-1118 during business hours. Students may also access CAPS’ after-hours phone support in the evenings and weekends by calling 734-487-1118. Students whose first language is not English may talk to a counselor in their preferred language. To access the International Student Support Program (ISSP), students may call 1-866-743-7732 or chat online with a counselor at https://us.myissp.com/Home/UniversitySearch.

President Jim Smith

Dear President Smith:

Documents such as the hateful business card found in Halle Library this morning impact us all. They harm us all. They are a part of us all.

There are those of us who have the privilege to decide whether or not this is a part of who we are or not, to choose to see how or how not this participates in our lives. But it always participates in our lives—it’s in our silences, it’s in our inaction, it’s in our punishing students of color for advocating for their own safety on campus, it’s in our ever-enduring inability to put forward plans of action, our forcing students of color to “manage” their responses with therapy in the face of our punishing student advocating, our not acknowledging our own complicity within white supremacy in every level from administration to our every conversation.

As you did last fall, distancing EMU from these actions ignores that this is exactly who we are. This is an extension, part of the broader context that we have sponsored at this institution through our inability to respond to student voices, to speak back to hate, to fail to acknowledge our white supremacist culture. We might pretend that this is not us, but this only serves to turn a blind eye, to not act, to allow future acts to continue.

EMU is not separable from these acts of hate—we are these acts. Each of us carry the experience of these acts of hate. Those of us who choose to pretend that these acts are not us can only do so because we are privileged enough to do so—to ignore how this document impacts every one of us and affects us disproportionately across differences, communities, and identities. What actions will you take? Or must our students march every day reminding us that “EMU’s President is Racist” before action will be taken again—as you did last fall?

“They are not us.” Who or what is not us? Those who would commit those acts of hatred? The acts themselves? Those acts that happened within Halle Library, on the side of King Hall, Wise Hall? Those messages that are heard and felt by our students, faculty, and staff?

It may be uncomfortable to admit your complicity—but being a university administrator, working within a university, being a responsible human is not comfortable. It involves understanding your values that are given both explicitly and implicitly. It involves being honest about what you have allowed to happen, and what you have not. It involves acknowledging the privilege you have to make these decisions.

So I will stand together with you, President Smith, but will we do more than stand?

Sincerely,

Thomas Passwater

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