let’s talk about tough issues

[letter to Carnegie Mellon ECE community, September 22, 2016]

Dear all,

the shootings in Charlotte, the latest in the string of terrible and disheartening events across the country seem to be pushing our country backwards. The intensely divisive US presidential election, full of demagoguery, contempt for minorities and disdain for science and facts, puts even more stress on all of us to do something. This is not about my personal political beliefs but about basic human decency; everyone deserves respect and, more importantly, a chance to be heard and understood. 

I’ve worked hard all my life, but mostly I’ve been lucky. I grew up not lacking in anything with two incredibly enlightened and supportive parents. In Yugoslavia of my youth, being a woman in engineering was not strange; I was encouraged and supported every step of the way. I grew up during Yugoslavia’s golden years and came to this country to do a PhD. I have a husband who is a true partner in everything and a daughter who grew up into a wonderful human being. I have a job that I love and work with amazing people. I truly have been blessed.

So I don’t know what it feels like to be an African-American man growing up in America. I don’t know what it feels like to be harassed or even worse. I don’t know what it feels like to have a disability. I don’t know what it feels like to be poor. I don’t know what it feels like to identify as nor am I LGBTQ. I don’t know what it feels like to be a refugee.

I don’t know what it feels like to be any of these, but I want to learn and understand; all of us, your faculty and staff, do. Help us figure out a way to effect and create change in our environment because that’s where the change starts. It’s an opportunity for all of us to put a mark on the world you will be living in much longer than we will.

Should we have a town hall on race relations or any other topic? Should we meet in smaller groups? Any other ideas? I may be busy but I will always make time to listen to your comments, concerns, ideas and suggestions.

Jelena

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