"I'm Sorry" Isn't Enough, Action Must Also Fortify the Spirit of Apology

March 17, 2021

Dear UT Pharmacy Community,

I’m writing to you today looking out of my open window at birds chirping, with the breeze tickling my face, and the sun illuminating all that it shines upon. By all accounts, it should be a glorious day and yet, my heart couldn’t feel more heavy. Senseless tragedy has struck our hearts and extended community once again. Anti-Asian racism is not new and yet, in the past few years, it has continued to gain momentum, becoming even more visible without consequence. To be silent is to be complicit, and this community cannot and will not be silent in the face of racism or any other pain that denigrates the gift of diversity in our community.

Along that vein, I’m writing to affirm to our UT Pharmacy community and beyond, that we stand in unapologetic solidarity with our Asian-American and Pacific-Islander (AAPI) -identifying brothers, sisters, and siblings against racism and hate of any kind. We do this not simply because we are colleagues or peers, but because in principle, we have all experienced another attack on our collective humanity and that is a tragedy for us all.

Far too often, those with marginalized identities are forced to contend with bigotry and aggression (however covert or insidious), and even violence because we are perceived to be different, perceived to be suspicious, perceived to be a threat, perceived to be anything but beautifully human. To have learned about the despicable murders that occurred in Georgia yesterday evening, where eight people were viciously snatched away from their loved ones, six of whom were Asian-identifying women, broke my heart and bruised my spirit. I’ve no doubt that many of you are experiencing similar pain and many of you are experiencing the type of pain that can only be experienced when loss feels deeply personal. For that, I am so very sorry- because that sense of loss is eerily familiar. For that, I am angry- because violence that attempts to rob us of our dignity is cowardice, shameful, and despicable. For that, I am with you- because we will not let this tragedy be spun in a way that trivializes the sheer brutality of what identity-centric violence does to the spirit of its community members.

Moreover, what it intends to do to the spirit of human dignity.

It is not critical in this moment to dispute the “why” or try to spin the story to somehow not be about identity in some way, because nothing postulated can help to make sense of this horrific act. Rather, I will spend my energies underscoring what I DO KNOW. Each of you matters and your pain is real and justified. You have a right to feel affirmed not only in this moment and for this heartbreaking reason, but in EVERY MOMENT because you matter and the beauty of your indomitable spirit is celebrated merely because you exist. You exist beautifully. This will not be forgotten or abated with the passage of time as so many tragedies are because we return comfortably to our routines. Rather, in this community, we will hold onto our resolve to be co-conspirators in eliminating hate and standing in the gap for those who are experiencing the pain of marginality and loss. We will NAME IT because in not doing so, we are protecting the transgression. We will humbly reject our membership into a community of “victimhood” because we are strong and we will not suffer silently but instead, insist that as a community of activators we refuse to be bystanders to bigotry of any kind, especially the kind that diminishes the unique beauty and human dignity that our diverse community brings. This is not performative. This is not lip service. This is not a DEAI action item to check. This is about human dignity and our commitment to embody that philosophy in this college, this university, this country, and our global world. We have a responsibility in this- yesterday, today, tomorrow, and evermore.

To my Asian-American and Pacific-Islander-identifying brothers, sisters, and siblings here and throughout the diaspora- YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOUR PAIN MATTERS. YOUR LOSS IS FELT because it is also our loss. As a reminder, it is our collective responsibility to be vigilant in our efforts of actionable support for anyone who has had to suffer through an identity-centric experience. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gretchen Rees for mental health support, as we aim to heal. Sending you love and healing in the spirit of UBUNTU- I am, because you are.

Warmest Regards,
Skyller Walkes, Ph.D.