Dear Members of the Brown Community,

As some of you may know, two weeks ago, deeply disturbing anti-black racist flyers were posted around Providence, including on streets running through campus. More recently, we have heard reports that some flyers were found on the campus itself, although the exact whereabouts have not been confirmed.

Any act rooted in racism, bigotry or hate is cause for deep concern. Not only are such acts deeply harmful to the individuals and communities they target, they conflict with the very values that define our community at Brown. No person -- whether a Brown student going to the library, a student from Hope High School walking to school, or a Providence resident on the way to work -- should be subject to flyers that have the intent to dehumanize and intimidate.

As soon as they appeared, the flyers generated a great deal of discussion among administrative leaders across the University -- in University Hall, the Office of Campus Life, the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, and the Department of Public Safety, to name a few. Our goal was to make sure that everyone was prepared to address concerns brought forward by members of our community as well as to keep an eye out for future incidents. I urge members of our community who see racist propaganda on or around campus to report it immediately to the Department of Public Safety or to the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.

Some students have asked why the administration did not send out a communication decrying the flyers shortly after they appeared. In hindsight, we should have done this. In an era where there seems to be a steady drumbeat of difficult news (recall that the Charlottesville incident occurred only six months ago) it can be difficult to draw the line between saying too little, on one hand, and responding to everything either locally, nationally or internationally, on the other hand. A communication denouncing the flyer would have been an opportunity to reaffirm to members of our community who identify as black that Brown is committed to their wellbeing. I hope that this communication, even if late, is taken in that spirit.

The best way for us to combat the ugly racism of the flyers spread across Providence is to redouble our efforts to do what we as a university community do best: educate ourselves and others about past and continued inequities, take principled stands against racism and bigotry, and continue to move forward on our plans to build a more diverse and inclusive community.

It is unfortunate that this incident coincided with the beginning of Black History Month, a time when the campus has been full of events, lectures and films that celebrate the contributions of black Americans to this country, and grapple with the injustice and inequality that black people continue to experience. Later this semester, the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice together with the WaterFire Arts Center will host an exhibit that includes the house in Detroit that the great civil rights leader Rosa Parks lived in after she left the South. The exhibit will use the story of Rosa Parks to illuminate the ongoing struggle for equal rights. These activities, and many others, demonstrate Brown’s commitment to combating racism with knowledge and understanding.

I am proud of the gains that Brown University has made under the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, and I look forward to our continued partnership to build a better Brown.

Sincerely,

 

Christina Paxson