As you probably know, at one of last month’s BYU Black History Month panels, racist questions were submitted anonymously, displayed on the screen, and drew laughter from audience members. The McKay School’s deans are deeply concerned about this display of racism and are committed to working toward achieving greater unity, respect, and inclusion in our work within the MSE and the BYU–Public School Partnership.
President M. Russell Ballard addressed this issue in his recent devotional address. He stated, “Let me assure you that the Lord is aware of you. He loves you and is concerned about you collectively. He is anxious to heal any wounded souls on this campus and to bring together each and every one of you in love and peace. We can help in the process as we love, seek forgiveness, offer forgiveness, and seek to build bridges of understanding.”
The McKay School stands with BYU in “condemning racism in any form. We are committed to promoting a culture of safety, kindness, respect, and love. We stand with our sponsoring institution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has stated, "White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them. Church members who promote or pursue a ‘white culture’ or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church."
Bryant Jensen, PhD, of the MSE Teacher Education Department, stated in his recent Ensign article, "Our Heavenly Father truly is no respecter of persons. He made us different for important reasons. Increased diversity in the Lord’s Church is not coincidental. These differences serve the purposes of God. I pray we will be the people God wants us to be—united in Christ, with our differences.
To seek greater unity in Christ, with all of our differences, I have found it helpful to ask myself these (and other) questions, and to honestly answer them:
- How can I know if any of my students feel like unwanted guests in my classes? Do they feel safe discussing with me their difficult questions, doubts, and concerns? How can I make each student feel welcome and valued?
- Whose voices and perspectives do I value in my classes? In faculty meetings? Whose voices do I silence, marginalize, or delegitimize?
- How do I model respectful attitudes and language when talking about students, staff, colleagues, and leaders at BYU?
- What do I do when someone tells a racist joke or makes a harmful judgment of others? Do I laugh at or condone this behavior?
- Do I use my position of power and privilege in ways that demean or devalue others?
- What will it take to create a Zion society (in my classes, program, department, school) in which we are of “one heart and one mind,” and dwell “in righteousness;” with “no poor among” us (Moses 7:18)?
- What am I doing toward that effort? What should I start doing? What should I stop doing?
I know I have room for improvement in how I treat others—both in my actions and my thoughts. I am committed to asking myself hard questions and working daily to live in greater love, forgiveness, and healing.
We in the Dean’s Office appreciate all you do to model the attributes of Jesus Christ, the Master Teacher, who is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). May we strive daily to follow Him, to discuss important issues candidly and civilly, and to lead our students along paths of greater kindness, love, and respect for each member of God’s family.