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Statement on Racist Violence

Just a few days ago, an 18-year-old White man spewing white supremacist ideas and rhetoric drove 200 miles from his home to a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, NY with the express purpose of killing as many Black individuals as he could. He did just that, ultimately shooting 13 people, 11 of whom were Black, and killing 10—a massacre in cold blood. And so we once again find ourselves having to stomach the unfathomable reality of racial hate that poisons our society and spreads unchecked to the point of driving a barely-legal adult to commit atrocities in the name of racial superiority.

This week, members of our department (of all ages, ranks, and roles) may find themselves walking into stores or businesses wondering if someone like that young man might decide to drive to our town to kill innocent people because of the color of their skin or some other aspect of THEIR personal identity that someone else decides to take issue with. This week, and for weeks and months to come, these thoughts and fears make our community feel less safe and the world feel that much colder. This is a concern that we should not have to deal with and yet here we are, BUT that burden is not shared equally. Those of us who identify as members of communities that are routinely subject to hate crimes and violence carry the weight of these events in ways that are not always obvious to the outside world, but our bodies and spirits buckle under that weight nonetheless as we try to get through our days as if these horrific assaults have not happened.

Indeed, the pain, fear, anger, and trauma that this brings to many in our community is raw and potent, and yet may not get much mention in our everyday lives as it blends into a landscape of countless incidents with the same underlying theme: racial hate that has been allowed to fester in our communities via political, economic, and educational mechanisms. A recent article on this topic provides some useful insights into how some of the messages of white supremacist thinking have become rather mainstream in recent years (https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/american-racism-and-the-buffalo-massacre). These messages are powerful and while we may think that turning a blind eye to them will take away their power, some (like the 18-yr-old perpetrator of this massacre) use these messages to justify heinous acts of hate-fueled violence. It is for that reason that we cannot allow any messages that suggest racial inferiority (or any such bigotry and hatred) go unacknowledged or unaddressed, no matter how small or how large.

At this moment, I want to share my own dismay, rage, frustration, fear, and disgust in reaction to these events and acknowledge the toll that I know it is taking on many in our community. The department of psychology stands together with the members of our Black communities who are weathering yet another assault on their humanity and with communities everywhere that are threatened and deeply impacted by these events or the specter of violence they leave in their wake. We reaffirm our commitment to promoting a safe environment for all and to continue to work on addressing the roots of racism wherever we encounter it. I certainly will be trying to use whatever is in my power as the Associate Head of DEI to help us all do this better and more often, myself included, because we continue to be reminded of what happens when we, as a society, fail to call out racism and hate when we see it.

The university has shared some resources to possibly help members of our community (see below), but If you need other support, please feel free to contact me and I can help you find the right resources.

José Soto
Associate Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

FOR STUDENTS 

Student Care and Advocacy
https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/studentcare
814-863-2020                                                                                                 

Counseling & Psychological Services                                        
https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/counseling
Counseling and mental health services available through CAPS, which can be reached at 814-863-0395 for University Park students, or at each Commonwealth Campus location.  

Community and Belonging Resources 
https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/community-belonging

FOR ALL 

The Penn State Crisis Line (877-229-6400) and the Crisis Text Line (text “LIONS” to 741741), which are open 24/7 to Penn Staters dealing with both crisis and non-crisis situations — including faculty, staff and students at all campuses who have a question about someone else. The licensed professionals with the Penn State Crisis Line can help evaluate each individual situation, offer guidance and help connect callers with further resources if appropriate.  

Penn State Crisis Line  
1-877-229-6400 or text "LIONS" to 741741 

Report Bias/Harassment:  https://equity.psu.edu/reportbias

FOR EMPLOYEES 

Penn State’s Employee Assistance Program, a free, confidential employee and family resource to be used as the first line of defense for personal or work-related concerns for employees and their families.  

Affirmative Action Office:  814-863-0471 

University Police and Public Safety: Call 814-863-1111 (non-emergency) and 911 (emergencies) 

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