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Creighton diversity and inclusion VP speaks on national panel

Christopher M. Whitt, PhDRacial disparities apparent in the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are inextricably tied to the generational distrust, pain and frustration expressed in the current protests of America’s “insidious institutional racism,” Creighton University’s chief diversity officer told a national panel June 2.

Speaking during an hour-long panel discussion titled “Police Killings and Black Lives Matter Protests,” Christopher M. Whitt, PhD, vice provost for institutional diversity and inclusion at Creighton, said the problem is broader than individual acts of brutality.

“Focusing only on individual acts of dehumanizing brutality subjected upon black people, like the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, is woefully insufficient,” he said. “It is imperative that additionally we collectively dedicate ourselves to addressing deep-rooted institutional structures of racism in addition to policing that include education, housing, disparities in wealth accumulation and access to health care, among many other injustices woven throughout the fabric of American society.”

The panel discussion was sponsored by Newswise, an online news service for universities, institutions and journalists.

Whitt was joined on the panel by Ayesha Bell Hardaway, JD, director of the Social Justice Law Center at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law; Sabrina Strings, PhD, assistant professor of sociology at the University of California; Kevin Cokley, PhD, professor of African and African diaspora studies and of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin; and Danielle Kilgo, PhD, assistant professor of journalism at The Media School at Indiana University.

Whitt said racial disparities in the United States are deep, historical and intrinsic to the structure of the country.

“It’s not that the systems are broken, it’s how they were designed and what vestiges we live with and how do we want to reconstruct them,” Whitt told the panel.

“There needs to be an acknowledgement of the fact that policing is one of the most immediate forms of the application of the institutional racism that we live with, but we see it play out in all these other ways.

“So, if we are working on this, we also need to be working on other elements of institutional racism. We can’t say we’re going to put all of our eggs in the policing basket and not look at education, not look at media, not look at housing, wealth accumulation and all those things.

“It really has to be a collective change that we take.”


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