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Saturday, December 05, 2020

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Meeting of Intersections held in response to racist acts

<p>Westhampton Lake</p>

Westhampton Lake

A meeting of Intersections, a group that meets on Wednesdays to discuss prominent issues in U.S. society, was held on June 3 to discuss the recent acts of racism in the U.S. and honor the memories of the lives lost. 

Keith McIntosh, vice president and chief information officer for Information Services, led the meeting on Zoom at 1 p.m. after the regularly scheduled Intersections meeting at 12 p.m., which focused on gender fluidity with guest speaker and associate director for LGBTQ campus life Lee Dyer. 

“Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd,” McIntosh said with intentional pauses in his opening statement. “Today I’m going to try my best to facilitate a discussion about the circumstances surrounding their death.”

McIntosh created Intersections in 2017 after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville to start discussions among his colleagues in Information Services and opened Intersections discussions to the entire campus community in the fall of 2018, McIntosh said.   

Although Intersections is strategic about planning the timeline of topics to cover for the year, McIntosh said he saw the need for an additional meeting given the recent events.

“I wanted to purposefully honor, first off, the three individuals, and that’s why, you know, their pictures were prevalent,” he said. “I wanted to make stories about them prevalent. I wanted to use their name — that was something purposeful. I did not want to use the name of any of the people that were the perpetrators because I don’t want to give them any time of day. 

“And then I really wanted an opportunity for all of us to kind of share and vent and think about our feelings.”

McIntosh organized the meeting so that there was time to discuss the circumstances of Arbery, Taylor and Floyd’s deaths individually and at the end of the meeting allowed time for attendees to then share more general thoughts. McIntosh was grateful that many allies joined the meeting, he said. 

“Maybe [allies] weren’t as aware and they could learn and grow in their understanding, both from what I presented but what everybody else shared," he said, "and then really be moved to have a deeper appreciation, maybe that they didn’t have before, that will help them see things differently — and maybe even better, do things differently going forward.”

Approximately 150 people, both students and faculty, attended the meeting, which McIntosh said was more than previous meetings. Although the meeting was originally scheduled for one hour, it lasted for nearly two hours.   

Tinina Cade, associate vice president of student development, said that safety for black people is not guaranteed anywhere, pointing to the circumstances of Taylor’s death.

“It makes me feel a terrible sense of despair when I realize there is no safe place,” Cade said. “I mean even from a university standpoint, when I am speaking to students and parents who want to bring their sons and daughters here, they want to know ‘is this a safe place?’ I realize I can’t guarantee or even insinuate that there’s any place that’s safe anytime in this country someone can be in their home sleeping with an assumption of safety and security to then be brutally awakened by strangers barging in with deadly intent, and yet not being held accountable for their horrific actions.” 

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During the meeting, Jaide Hinds-Clarke, a ‘20 graduate, pointed out a parallel between the circumstances of Taylor’s death and the racist graffiti that occurred on the UR campus in January.

“Just thinking about Breonna Taylor, this reminds me of the incidents that happened on our campus with different names being written on people’s door tags,” Hinds-Clarke said, “and thinking about how dorms on campus are people’s living spaces and that should be a space where you walk in your dorm and feel like you’re protected, or you’re in a space where you can feel safe, and that’s not the case.”

McIntosch said he was moved by people who were willing to admit that they previously had been blind to many injustices faced by black people. 

Mark Stanton, athletics compliance coordinator, expressed in the meeting that his perspective had changed as a result of the recent racist acts and reflected on his newfound perspective in an email to The Collegian. 

“What is scary and most upsetting – is that it took the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the ensuing protests across the country for me to realize how blind my white privilege has made me,” Stanton wrote. “I consider myself a positive person. I avoid reading the news as I find sensationalist, negative headlines taxing on my emotional energy. I now realize I have the luxury to behave this way because I am a cisgender white man.”

Jean Creamer, assistant registrar, said Intersections discussions were important because they helped people grow in their ability to navigate difficult conversations and gain more a comprehensive understanding. 

“Having this group is important because if you’re not used to that conversation, it just shows you that you can have the conversations,” she said. “And it’s important to have the conversation, and you can then carry that conversation elsewhere so that [understanding] just keeps growing.”

McIntosh said that given the recent racist acts, the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that spawned from the pandemic, people need each other more than ever. He hopes Intersections can serve as a meeting place for people to be vulnerable and share their thoughts, he said.

McIntosh will facilitate another meeting of Intersections on June 10 to discuss protests and riots, which will be held at 1 p.m. after the regularly scheduled 12 p.m. Intersections meeting about gender bias, he said. McIntosh said he will also likely hold a third meeting to discuss activism on June 17. 

Contact managing editor Emma Davis at emma.davis@richmond.edu.

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