While the summer of 2020 will be remembered for a lot of things, may it be known as a time when people in this country constructively committed to changing perspectives and behaviors resulting in a more equitable and just society for all.
An important step along this journey of change is truth-telling. Race, xenophobic hatred and acts of violence have a powerful legacy and impact across generations especially in Black and POC communities. Genocide, lynching, slavery, red-lining and systemic police brutality (be it 400 years ago or just last week) are unequivocal parts of our nation’s history that weaken our entire society. Attempts to “whitewash” these truths by leaving out or distorting historical facts in school textbooks and other media result in, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project, a lack of acknowledgement that slavery “shaped the fundamental beliefs of Americans about race and whiteness.” This intentional dearth of information does not stop with the lasting impacts of slavery but extends to other egregious acts including the ethnic cleansing by the U.S. government of Tribes and Indian nations, the internment of Japanese people in World War II and the unlawful imprisonment of immigrants and refugees from all parts of the world. Knowing and learning our history from different perspectives is critical if we are going to come to terms with these oppressive realities and work together to further develop this country based on the principles of full equality and respect.
So, too, is changing individual and communal perspectives and practices. How we view and understand one other are often related to and influenced by the systems that are part of our lives that directly or indirectly further our own self-interest while denying the well-being of the person “different” from ourselves. Often, especially for White Americans, the communities lived in, clubs and organizations belonged to, jobs held and schools attended are still fraught with racial bias and inequities. As this reality becomes apparent and can no longer be hidden or ignored, my hope is that this will lead to personal and collective acts of courage and introspection that result in the dismantling of the systems and policies that covertly and overtly further racism and destructive social separatism.
For almost fifty years, the Rothko Chapel’s mission has focused on education, challenging assumptions, identifying and bridging societal divides and connecting people to one another. We are mindful of the ongoing changes and growth that the Chapel must make as an inclusive community organization. We continue to listen, reflect and act, acutely aware that change cannot happen in a vacuum. We are indeed living at a unique moment in history. May this summer be known as the time when we collectively committed in word, thought and deed to set an unwavering course to ensure our country is truly characterized as a place of peace, justice and freedom for all.
David Leslie, Executive Director
From the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, to the historic acts of hate, violence and aggression perpetrated against Black communities and communities of color, it is clear that much work remains to address racism and dismantle white supremacy in order to create a truly just and equitable society.
The Rothko Chapel is dedicated to addressing issues of racism, structural inequities and social injustice through our mission and public programming in order to lift up our shared humanity and help create a world where all are treated with dignity and respect. While reflecting on the work still do to and providing insight on ways to take action and affect change, we have gathered from our archives a collection of conversations, presentations, and performances that confront issues such as mass incarceration, environmental justice, immigration, income inequality and the ongoing struggle for civil rights. We invite you to explore these offerings and hope that you find them helpful as resources to further both contemplation and action.
Photo from "The Institutional Violence of Incarceration," 2014.
Friday, July 10, 2020