Dear Hope College Student-Athlete,
Just like many of you, I have watched with sadness and anger the events of the last couple of weeks in the United States. As a white man in a position of power, I fully realize that I have been privileged beyond that of so many. I also realize that with this reality comes responsibility to steward my privilege for the good of others and this world. The other day, I saw a tweet from a former Hope College student-athlete who said:
“It’s exhausting as hell being black. I’m speaking to my white friends in real life and on twitter – I don’t think you really understand just how exhausting it really is to see a black man get unnecessarily killed on video a day after a white woman uses her whiteness to call the police….”
How is it that we live in a world where anyone should feel like that?! I am ashamed at how I may have, in any way, contributed to people feeling like this, and today I am reaching out to challenge us ALL to be better, to do better, and to stand up to racism and injustice. While I write this, I do not presume to have any idea of what our African American student-athletes and student-athletes of color (AHANA) are going through or what they truly need. But I am committing to seeing and listening to them with humility. To see their joys and their struggles. To see what they need from me and others. To listen to what I can do in my position to help end racism and injustice in our community and beyond. And I am committing to love. To love my “neighbor as I love myself and my family.” To love with actions and not with only my words.
To our African American and AHANA student-athletes, I am sorry that it has taken tragedy and injustice and protests for me to write this letter, and I promise that I will do better personally and in my role at Hope College. To those of us who have been privileged to be largely free from racism and injustice in our lives, I am challenging you to see those who are dealing with injustice, to listen to those who are victims of subtle and overt racism, and to demonstrate your love for them by standing up for truth and what is right. We can be better. We will be better. We must be better.
As people of Hope, we are called to be a light, and I am committing to work with campus leadership and our student-athletes of color to find tangible solutions on our campus. As of today, I am committing to the following in moving forward:
- In an effort to see and listen, we will publish blog posts written by our alumni student-athletes of color who will share their personal thoughts on what is going on in our country, along with some specific advice to you, our present student-athletes.
- Our athletic staff will be engaging in on-going cultural awareness education (beginning in Aug. 2020) so that we can grow in our development in providing a transformational experience for ALL student-athletes. We will begin this under the guidance of Dr. Sonja Trent Brown, Chief Officer for Culture and Inclusion at Hope College.
- Effective this fall, we will be creating a Student-Athletes of Color Advisory Committee. While we do not have all the details on who will be on this committee, we anticipate leadership will come from present student-athletes of color, some Hope staff and possibly some alumni student-athletes of color. We will spend the summer listening and taking feedback on how to structure this in the most effective way.
- Hope Athletics will continue to improve our hiring process to be more inclusive in both how and where we recruit qualified candidates.
- I want to hear from any of you who want to share. I promise to listen, ask questions, and do my best to respond in appropriate ways to your needs. Please feel free to email me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know that we will not be perfect and have much to learn. As it says in 1 John 3:18, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” It is time for Hope College Athletics to show our beliefs with actions and truth. I look forward to partnering with each of you to stand up to racism and injustice. And I am excited to see you all this fall. Keep bringing a light and standing up for what is right!
With deep sincerity,
Tim “Schoonie” Schoonveld