How do we Respond

Dear Carolina Family:

Last night, many of us went to bed with heavy questions weighing down our hearts and minds as we tried to process the events of the past several days. In Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas and in other cities as well, tragic acts have touched so many across the country. The wounds are still fresh from Orlando and the memories from other recent acts of violence come rushing back, painful and overwhelming. Each tragedy is different and each complex. There are those that gain national attention and others suffered more quietly; but, lives lost at the hands of racism, bigotry, terrorism, relationship violence—they are all lives lost at the hands of hate.

In South Carolina, this weekend will mark the one-year anniversary of the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina State House grounds, a move that was way past due, championed and celebrated by USC.

As we process these events, we ask ourselves: How do we respond? What should we do? What is the historical context? Will it happen again? Am I safe? Who is next? Should there be more laws? Should we restrict access to certain weapons?  How does our nation move forward? How do we heal? Who can I talk to? How do we have these difficult conversations?

These are the questions for America and for our community of scholars, the Carolina Community. While I don’t have answers to all the questions, I do think there’s something we can all do that may help. 

Hatred of any kind does not reflect our American values.

Let’s recommit to airing our views in a way that is civil and responsible and recommit to opposing violence in all of its forms, including violent language and hate speech.  While hate speech isn’t the same as a physical act of hate, it is on the spectrum and we should reject all forms of hate. Hatred of any kind does not reflect our American values.

Let’s commit to having fruitful and vigorous conversations and forums about the role of our university and our responsibilities as members of its community when you return in the fall. Let’s respect free speech while we encourage healing. Let’s find peaceful paths of action that will lead us to reconciliation. This fall, we’re planning to launch the South Carolina Collaborative on Race and Reconciliation and its primary program, Welcome Table SC. This will be a series of healthy dialogues about race, first on campus and then across the state.

As we enter the second half of the summer, please spend time reflecting on these issues and let me know if you have additional thoughts. Come back to campus ready to learn and prepared for conversations to come. Most importantly, be ready to extend the hand of friendship to a new face, embrace a friend and live the Carolinian Creed.


Harris Pastides