A message from Lashawn Richburg-Hayes, vice president of Insight Policy Research and president-elect of SREE, to SREE community members

June 9, 2020 by Caroline Brent-Chessum

It is with a heavy heart and frayed nerves that I write this message. As we continue to figure out how to manage the uncertainty of the pandemic, many of us are also managing additional rage, heartbreak, and frustration with another death of a Black man. As a Black woman—married to a Black man and a mother of two young Black men—my lived experience is one of fear and worry. I live with a constant concern that my husband may be pulled over and a simple traffic stop can turn into a tragedy or that my son will bike through the “wrong” neighborhood with life threatening consequences. At the same time, I bristle at suggestions that I should monitor my sons more closely and not let them venture far. I don’t feel that they should be held accountable for a system that has relegated people of a certain skin color to be lesser and therefore treated as less than human.

I truly believe that we are at a critical point in our history where we can make an inflection point that turns this trend around. I believe that we can each use this opportunity to learn more about the contributors to inequities, name institutional structures that support them, and identify solutions that disrupt the status quo that fosters inequality. To become students again, learning to recognize the microaggressions (and macroaggressions) that people of color face and confront them. I believe that we have an opportunity to further open the dialogue about race, racism, and the cost of privilege.

As researchers, we have the opportunity to reflect on how we can further add nuance to our work through mixed methods that seek to identify and codify context from multiple perspectives; through identifying policies that are either racialized or have racial implications; and to think deeply about recommendations and next steps that move toward joint solutions (rather than ones that act upon communities of color without their input). We have the opportunity to work with our colleagues on these difficult topics and to engage with our Researchers of Color (ROC) group at SREE on ways that our professions can change and further dismantle the structures that foster separation, distrust, and differential opportunity. Together, as a research community, we can use this period to further reflect on moving educational effectiveness beyond methodology to practical and equitable application.

Lashawn Richburg-Hayes