An important message from Dr. Levy about these difficult times and the importance of supporting each other

We are living in very difficult times. The pandemic is changing almost every element of our lives. We can’t feel free to just leave our home and do what we want. We worry about our friends and family members who are ill and those who are on the front lines helping those who are ill. We have been struggling with this for months. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t feel like we are making a great deal of progress even though the data suggest that, in some ways, we are. It continues to be difficult and so very different from our old lives.

Now, we have the horrible atrocity of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. This is yet another example of the racism and discrimination that exists so broadly in our world. It’s awful that there are so many examples – Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery. The institutional racism is all around us. As a privileged white man I will not begin to think that I can understand what the members of the black community experience and have experienced their entire lives – that would be disingenuous. But, I can stand with my black brothers and sisters and I do… I can pledge to be better about listening to those experiences and I will….I can commit to actions that help fix the broken system that white America created and I am committed to that. I’m hoping to get some guidance about how best to do these things from those who live with this injustice every day.

We have a responsibility to each other – to faculty and staff, to graduate students, to undergraduate students – to be there for each other. We need to listen and try to understand what our friends of color are experiencing. Since March was have seen more and more attacks on Asian Americans as a result of the virus having started in China. This has been pretty disconcerting in my house. Having an Asian-American wife and 3 “hapa” (mixed race in Hawaiian) kids makes me think about institutional racism in broader terms. However, it is our Black brothers and sisters who are so deeply discriminated against and for whom social justice is so frequently ignored. We all need to recognize that Black Lives Matter isn’t a cute little saying. It’s a pronouncement in response to feeling a lack of value or worth from the society in which folks live. No one should have to experience that. We owe it to all members of our community to fight for each individual’s value and worth. We will do that in the Department of Psychology – we will do better, we must. I think President Obama said it very well in a recent statement, “It falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station….to work together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.”

If you are looking for a good read, I strongly suggest Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. A quote from that book resonates with me in this particular time and place: “Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.”

We have a lot to do. I hope that we all find our place and our role – whatever that may be. To my black brothers and sisters: I am so sorry that you have to fear what might happen to you when doing things that I do without thinking (running, sleeping, shopping). I’m so sorry that you have to have conversations with your children that my parents never had to have with me. I’m sorry that we even have to utter the phrase Black Lives Matter because that should be so obvious and an absolute given. But, that’s the reality now; let’s create the ‘new normal’ that President Obama wrote about last week. We truly are in this together. I hope the Department of Psychology can model attitudes and behaviors that become part of the ‘new normal.’

If your struggle leads you to a search for resources, here are some places to start as identified by an email sent to the UA community from our VP of Inclusion and Equity, Jolene Lane. The anger, anxiety, depression, and frustration can be overwhelming – let’s help each other.

Please stay safe,