Dear colleagues, students, staff, and alumni,

At the beginning of 2023, Keenan Anderson was brutally detained by police officers in Los Angeles and died shortly after. Tyre Nichols was similarly brutally beaten by police in Memphis and died later that night. There are so many names, too many incidences, and yet they continue. These incidents serve as a reminder not just of the lethal force too often used against the Black community, but the daily injustices Black Americans and those of other marginalized communities face daily both here and around the world. Our commitment as a department to fighting racism, discrimination, and inequity in all of its forms will not wane even as the media spotlight on these issues may once again dim.

In the spring of 2020, our country confronted the damage and suffering caused by racism and police brutality. The abhorrent murders of Black men and women triggered a world-wide upsurge in anti-racist protests and activity, a continuation of the decades-long work of the Black communities' fight for justice. In response, we as a faculty felt it was important to remind ourselves of our obligation to principles of social justice and equal rights and our commitment to dialogue and action to fight against racism and injustice in all of its forms (please find our original statement here).Our department affirmed that “We must honor the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and so many others who have tragically lost their lives by educating ourselves and becoming active agents of change.” Moreover, those deaths instigated self-reflection in our department as to how our department fared in our efforts to fight racism.

Instances of domestic terrorism and rioting in DC following the 2020 presidential election prompted us once again to address the white privilege that pervades our society. Images of racist and anti-Semitic symbols filled the media, serving as stark reminders of the importance of our dedication to ensuring that our department, institutions, and country are safe for everyone. What we witnessed at the US Capitol on January 6, including complicity by those we entrust to protect our government institutions and leaders, must be understood within the context of the daily privileges afforded by centuries of racial privilege and injustices. As stated by Bernice King, “We have yet to earnestly address America’s violent roots, its white supremacy, or its racism. With urgency, we must. If we do not, violence, in many forms, will persist, not matter who is in office.” Regardless of one’s political party affiliation, our HDFS community must be mindful of the extra stress that many of our faculty, students, staff, and clients experience as a result of daily experiences of racism and bias and as a result of the salient media images and reports of violence. We stand with those whose safety and security are threatened and with everyone who is overwhelmed and overwrought regarding the events that are unfolding. We must provide support and do better as a unit and as a country.

We again acknowledge that our current foundations lie in privilege afforded by centuries of racial injustice and that the reverberations of that legacy remain today. Therefore, we strive to incorporate issues of race, racism, and anti-bias in all of our work. We continue to improve our curriculum and research. To this end, we examine how we can improve our pedagogy, teach our students about the insidious nature of racism and oppression, along with the strengths and rich history of Black families, and ensure that our students are prepared to work with diverse populations. We also need to increasingly utilize our scholarship for the betterment of those beyond our campus borders, both locally and globally.

At the same time, we find hope in the progress we see in our society and in our department. Rather than waning, our national dialogue on issues of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, religious discrimination, and other forms of bias should persist in constructive ways. We see progress in private and public sectors. We continue to cultivate a departmental culture in which advancing anti-racism in our pedagogy and scholarship remains at the forefront of our efforts. To this end, the HDFS department has undertaken training for our faculty and graduate students with the diversity and inclusion office at Auburn University and offer more trainings on a regular basis. We also continue to self-educate with readings and discussions on the topics of white privilege, racism, discrimination, and injustice, with plans to read and discuss more. In addition, we have established a database of educational materials to improve ourselves and our teaching. More informally, we have seen increased efforts to provide peer support for better educating ourselves and our students on the intersection of race, culture, gender, development, and family systems.

With recent events in mind, we remain committed to the following action steps, some of which we have completed and some are an ongoing goal as we constantly work to improve ourselves and our work:

  1. Challenge ourselves and each other on our own biases and prejudices and incorporate anti-racism education and training as an integral part of our professional development. We continue to do this work through formalized department activities, such as reading discussions, attendance at workshops, and online educational opportunities, as well as individualized efforts to enhance anti-racist and anti-bias attitudes and actions in our own lives.

  2. Ensure all faculty and graduate students complete additional anti-racism training and Safe Zone training by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. We include SafeZone training as members of our community who are Black and identify as LGBTQ are at amplified risk for discrimination and violence. Furthermore, SafeZone provides an additional avenue for developing the skills needed to fight racism and bias in all of its forms.

  3. Engage in collaboration to enhance the degree to which all of our classes effectively addresses the intersections between race, racism, human development, and family systems. This will include two actions: (a) engage in bi-semester meetings of the faculty who teach graduate-level classes and those who teach undergraduate-level classes to share strategies for teaching about racism, and the resiliency of Black families and communities, and problem-solve how to address challenges to this objective and (b) maintain shared teaching resources relevant to this goal.

  4. Work with the Office of Inclusion and Diversity to create a resource document for our department faculty, students, and staff who witness or learn about a racist or discriminatory incidents on campus. This document will provide information as to how to talk with the member of the campus community affected, who at the university to contact, and how to follow-up with the affected individual(s).

  5. Allow for all anti-racism and anti-bias work by our faculty to be included and considered in promotion and tenure materials. This work is integral to institutional, community, and societal change and should be recognized and rewarded in a way that contributes to, rather than is an impediment to, career advancement.

We also encourage participation in the following events hosted by NCFR:

We have provided a list of resources below for people who need support or assistance. If you need help identifying resources in a region outside of this list, we would be happy to assist you.

Student Counseling Services.
Phone: (334) 844-5123.
Students of Auburn University receive 10 sessions without charge per academic year.

Auburn Cares
( services include “navigating campus and community resources, exploration of and referral for mental health concerns, coordination and follow-up during and after an illness or injury, financial hardship assistance, problem resolution, and crisis management.”

Auburn University Marriage and Family Therapy Center.
Phone: (334) 844-4478.
Glanton House, Auburn University, AL 36849
Estimated fees: Student fee is $10-$20 per session. Active duty military is free. Otherwise, on a sliding scale based on family size and income (from $10 to $50 per hour). Virtual therapy available for those in the state of Alabama.

East Alabama Psychiatric Services.
Phone: (334) 821-0238.
Address: 2740 Village Professional Drive, Opelika,AL 36801.
Office hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.
Peter J. Lusche, M.D.; David L. Estep, M.D.; Jennifer Hadley, M.D., Ph.D., Erica Kierce, CRNP; Sandy Whitaker, CRNP

National suicide hotline.
Phone: 1-800-273-8255.

Crisis Center of East Alabama, Inc. Phone: (334) 821-8600. Free services

Safe House (open to battered women) Phone: (334) 749- 1515. Free services

California State University San Marcos Racial trauma, resiliency, and ally resources.

et’s all challenge ourselves to do better to recognize the history of systemic racism in all of its forms— including in health care, housing, education, politics, and law enforcement–and to take action to help individuals, families, and communities, as reflected in our HDFS, College, and Auburn mission statements. We, as a faculty, accept the challenge to promote a climate of equity, inclusion and respect. We welcome further ideas and input on our action steps. We believe in us, the work we do, and the future we will create together. We look forward to our continued work and commitment to improving the lives of individuals, families, and communities.

With care,

Faculty of Department of Human Development and Family Science
College of Human Sciences
Auburn University