President McCulloh Statement on Racism Human Dignity

This weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia – which began with a march by “white nationalists” Friday night on the campus of the University of Virginia, continued with a rally by white supremacists at the foot of a statue of Robert E. Lee in nearby McIntyre Park on Saturday morning, and erupted by Saturday mid-day in violence and several related deaths – is a reminder that racism and hate speech is not a thing of the past in America. Friday’s demonstration, mounted under the ideological banner “Unite the Right,” saw individuals carrying flaming torches on a university campus under cover of night, a terrifying and all-too-familiar image for those who know of and remember the horrific acts of the Ku Klux Klan and other white-supremacist organizations active in our country from the Civil War even into the present time.

As a Jesuit, Catholic, humanistic university – a community of teachers and learners whose very mission is rooted in the belief that all people are sacred children of God, worthy of dignity and respect – it is impossible to bear witness to acts of hatred such as those perpetrated by the white supremacists in Virginia this weekend without speaking out in unequivocal opposition to them. As Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has reminded us, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

But speaking out in light of the Charlottesville events is not sufficient: we must acknowledge that racism pervades our entire society, and that continuing the work of ensuring that all people of all races, ethnicities, and cultures or cultural origins – whether they live in Virginia, in Spokane, or right here on the campus of Gonzaga University – are worthy of honor, respect, equitable treatment, and inclusion in every aspect of our work and agency. We cannot be complacent in our commitment; we cannot assume that stamping out racism – or any other act or expression of prejudice, be it on the basis of sex, faith or religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, age, or veteran status – is someone else’s responsibility. It is our responsibility, each of us, every day.

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On behalf of this community, I on this day affirm once more that Gonzaga University stands in solidarity with all those who oppose hate, who oppose prejudice, who oppose racism – and confirms its commitment to working proactively and constructively to create a culture and society where the dignity of each and every individual is treasured, honored, and celebrated, and the words “equity,” “inclusivity,” and “justice” are truly hallmarks of our way of proceeding.

Sincerely yours,

Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil.
President, Gonzaga University
August 13, 2017