Dear FIT community,
I am reaching out to you in this incredibly, hauntingly difficult time in our history as a country. I am stymied a bit because there really are no words to effectively describe this moment. Yet silence seems like acquiescence and acceptance of behaviors we have come to expect.
I, like so many of you, witnessed a murder. I watched and listened as the life was crushed out of another human being. The picture and sounds still echo in my head. I do not intend to forget.
The recent murders of African Americans in Minnesota, Georgia, and Kentucky resonate through our history, and with each death, there lives a familiar memory of those who preceded it. With each death comes trauma yet again—particularly for African Americans. We are left to wonder: If we were to drill down and analyze the DNA of the American psyche, is racism at its core?
I ask you: Is there any interest in mobilizing our collective will to change the outcome—to make it better? Do we care enough? If we do not own our behavior and recognize our contribution to the “American way” of inequality, disrespect and limited expectations for our brethren, colleagues and neighbors of color—will this remain our best selves?
I mourn for those who died, their families and friends, the communities in which they lived. I mourn for our country. I mourn for the spirit and the dreams of young black people who make no plans for a future they will never see. I mourn, too, for FIT. As I learned all too painfully this past spring, FIT is not exempt. The community we have built, the community we think we know so well, suffers from the same debilitating behavior patterns of couched but cruel comments, dismissive or derisive attitudes, opportunities denied, and limited expectations. Microaggressions that are hard to articulate or define are even harder to absorb. When they are left unattended and unrecognized in a sea of unconscious bias, they can morph into forces larger than the sum of the parts. In Minnesota, Georgia, and Kentucky they remained unrecognized and they morphed into murder.
Here, in Central Park, just the other day, a white woman called the police to falsely accuse a black man of assault when he asked her to leash her dog. History had taught her the power her words would have in what she clearly recognized as an unequal equation. Thankfully no lives were lost; it could so easily have turned out differently.
I will never forget the expressionless eyes of that Minneapolis police officer as he crushed out a life that he clearly felt had less value than his own, and one not worthy of preservation or respect.
Difficult as it may be, we must rededicate ourselves to live and teach the values of tolerance, acceptance, compassion, and cultural appreciation, and to do so daily, and with intention. To think before we speak, to reflect before we act.
I hope that each one of you reading this message will join me in this effort. It could not be more essential, for our country and for our own community at FIT. It will be key as to whether we are truly better than this.
Dr. Joyce F. Brown
Fashion Institute of Technology