University of Chicago Crew Club

Dear community,

We are writing to affirm that the UChicago Crew Team stands in solidarity with the victims of systemic racism, discrimination, and violence. Recent events, including the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and countless others, have made the world painfully conscious of the difficult lived experiences of the Black community in our country. We recognize that these issues are not divorced from our team, and that instances of police brutality have touched the lives of our own members in the past. We are acutely aware of the racism that is endured by the members within our communities, and devastated by the pain and loss it continually causes.

This statement arrives after several weeks of difficult discussions and consternation. As a board and as a team, we have been grappling with many of the same questions our country is dealing with: To what extent do we benefit from the historic legacy of racism, and to what extent are we complicit in perpetuating it today? Is it our place to speak out against these issues, and whom are we hurting when we stay silent? More broadly, how do we reconcile our national identity with our history?

Asking and answering these questions has been a difficult and at times divisive process. We do not tolerate racism on this team, but silence is a form of toleration. We realize that in failing to speak up soon enough, we have let down some members of our team and our larger community. For that we are deeply sorry.

Although it is reaching you too late, we hope that you see this message as we do, as an answer to these questions, as a symbol of solidarity, and as the first step of the growth we need to collectively achieve. For many of us, rowing is about empowering ourselves and our teammates. With this in mind, we want to continue empowering each other not only as rowers but also as advocates for the marginalized members of our community.

Historically, rowing has been a homogenous, white sport that has been inaccessible to the Black community and to people of color. In practicing this sport, we find it critical to examine the ways in which rowing culture benefits from institutions of systemic racism. More concretely, we are committed to protecting and improving our commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Moving forward, we will be working with the Center for Inclusion and Identity to implement the following initiatives within our team:

  1. We will create an anonymous channel for team members to voice their concerns about the team atmosphere and environment; they will be shared with the Team Captains and the President.
  2. Rowing is seen as a predominantly white sport; in order to ensure that our team is seen as an open and inclusive environment for everyone, future recruitment will attempt to more fully represent the diversity of our community.
  3. The Board is actively looking into the creation of an Inclusivity Fund to make UChicago Crew more financially accessible.
  4. The Board will appoint a “Community Engagement Advisor” who will work closely with the Office of Civic Engagement to spearhead various engagement opportunities with South Side communities.

Finally, in closing:

To the People of Color within our community:
Please know that we are determined to uphold our commitment to solidarity. These issues are real and they can no longer be ignored. Although we cannot all possibly understand the depth of your pain and grief, we are determined to protect and support you.

We want you to feel welcome here; UChicago Crew must be a safe and inclusive community for Black students and other students of color. If you have any suggestions on how we can better achieve this, we welcome your thoughts. As we continue to educate ourselves on these issues, we want you to know that we see you and we hear you. We are listening.

To the allies in our community:
It is more important now than ever to reexamine the ways in which racism affects those around us, and to ask how we can make a positive impact for marginalized members of our society. We realize that often we may mean well but still act in ways that reinforce systemic injustice. We urge you to confront the ways in which the effects of racism live on in our communities and practices.

Reckoning with institutions of racism within our society will be difficult and painful, because they are so prevalent and so central to American existence. It will demand discomfort and growth from each and every one of us. However, as rowers we are used to embracing pain and discomfort in pursuit of growth; we are confident that this community is uniquely equipped to perform the introspection and reform that is urgently needed.

If anyone has more suggestions or ideas for how to make the UChicago Crew Team a more inclusive and safer team, please feel free to reach out to president@uchicagocrew.com.

Black Lives Matter.
Sincerely,

The UChicago Crew Team