To Our Community,
We want to acknowledge the horrific events of late—the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and so many other Black people; the blatant and weaponizing racism demonstrated by Amy Cooper; the failure of our president and elected officials to act effectively; and the enormous loss of Black lives and livelihoods to police violence. For people like George, Ahmaud, Breonna, and Tony, justice delayed was justice denied. The pace of societal progress was simply too slow for them. They lost their lives and will never get a do-over.
The infuriating and painful truth is that none of this is new. Though this moment may feel bizarre, jarring, or shocking, this is a reality that Black people are accustomed to and have experienced across the country for years. Racism against black people has manifested itself in different forms for longer than this country has existed. It has existed explicitly as slavery, segregation, lynching, mass incarceration, hate crimes, police brutality, and implicitly as stereotyping, assumptions, microaggressions, and white silence. (This is, obviously, not an exhaustive list.)
In the larger outdoor community, white-centric environmentalism and the exclusion of Black people is rampant, and is perpetuated on a smaller scale in our own FOP community. For FOP specifically, racism is also manifested as a lack of diversity among our leaders and participants, decades-long silence and apathy toward social justice in our curriculum, and training that does not adequately educate our leaders about how systemic racism impacts the outdoors. We as an SC and as a FOP community are not blameless.
The events of the last few days highlight the urgent need for our program to grow and evolve. FOP has the power to influence the attitudes and actions of over 400 first-years every single year. Those students can in turn make Harvard a more inclusive, accepting campus. When Harvard shapes its students into better citizens, those students become leaders who have the opportunity to make the world more equitable and just. With this in mind, we’re committing to taking the following actions and making the following changes to FOP:
Instituting implicit bias training as a new core component of our leader training.
Embedding discussions of race, equity, and diversity in the outdoors and at Harvard into each trip (beyond just one general EDI discussion).
Collaborating with other Harvard pre-orientation programs to improve the EDI programming that participants receive.
Working with other outdoor pre-orientation programs at our peer institutions to make change within the broader outdoor community.
Additionally, we’d like to ask our fellow leaders to continue to educate and share resources with folks in your networks, donate (if you are able) to bail funds that go toward protestors and other incarcerated people, and stay engaged with local anti-racism actions. We’re currently seeking approval from Harvard to match donations and will be updating all of you on that as soon as we can. We’ve included links to some educational resources and places to donate in this Google doc.
In FOP, we always try to “assume best intentions”. Over the past few days, we’ve found ourselves wondering: where would we be if officer Derek Chauvin had assumed best intentions? Or better yet, where could we be if ALL police officers assumed best intentions? Though the answers to these questions are unknowable, they nevertheless stress the importance of becoming catalysts of change ourselves. If we exercise our agency and leverage our privilege for others, we can make a difference. We can prevent the Derek Chauvins of the world from ever wearing a badge or wielding a gun in the first place. We can overcome our biases, influence our peers, and restructure our systems. Because in the end, we are all human beings and we all deserve compassion, opportunity, justice, and love.
We hope this email finds you safe and healthy. We love you. Stay strong. Black Lives Matter.
FOP SC ‘20
Hannah Barbash-Taylor ‘21
Spencer Carter ‘22
Sonia Chen ‘21
Sarah Flynn ‘21
Chris Johnson-Harwitz ‘21
Cooper Tretter ‘22
Jackson Walker ‘21
Emily Quigley, FOP Director
P.S. Here are some resources that you may find useful again.