Interim President Nate Bryant's view on what it will take to erase “hundreds of years of hate” suffered by people of color.
Be ready for the long run
By Anne Marie Tobin, Lynn Item, 8/21/20
A marathon, not a sprint.
That’s North Shore Community College Interim President Dr. Nate Bryant’s view on what it will take to erase “hundreds of years of hate” suffered by people of color.
“It’s just not realistic to think that it can happen in a couple of years,” said Dr. Bryant. “But what I am seeing now from this Black Lives Matter movement, that I honestly have not seen before, is that there are so many young people who aren’t just coming together to protest. They are educating themselves about the plight of Black people and people of color, (and) what they have gone through for hundreds of years.
“These young people are making sure this isn’t just about public protests, it’s about being informed so they can help others become informed.”
Dr. Bryant said in order for the movement to effectuate substantial change, Black Lives Matter must engage in meaningful discussion with leaders.
“The movement is there, but now there has to be dialogue with leaders and persons in positions of power,” he said. “The message that needs to be sent is these are just the right things to do. To make effective change, your decision-makers need to have a variety of backgrounds to have strength. In hiring, you need to have diversity, not just in terms of race but in other areas. This is critical and it doesn’t happen enough.”
Dr. Bryant said when people who are making the decisions at any level share similar backgrounds, their decisions are based only on what they see and hear and don’t take into account the needs of others who have different backgrounds.
“Decisions need to be made based on diversity and inclusion so that all perspectives are considered when making decisions,” Dr. Bryant said.
He is encouraged by the emergence of chief diversity officers in corporate boardrooms, which Dr. Bryant says began to appear in higher education about 10-15 years ago and now are trending at some major companies.
“Inititally, chief diversity officers were hired to work with Human Resources departments on things like claims of discrimination and issues with those who were under-represented, but they have gone well beyond that and offer diversity that wasn’t there before,” said Dr. Bryant. “They give different perspectives and a seat at the big table where decisions are made.”
Dr. Bryant said for change to occur, people must start listening to “voices that have gone unheard for hundreds of years.”
At the smallest level — the “what can I do” level — Dr. Bryant says it’s a simple matter of “see something, say something.”
“At work or anyplace when you see or hear something that just is not right, you have to call it out. If you don’t, it gets perpetuated. That’s the way you change things,” he said.
Dr. Bryant said an argument can be made this country has seen “more divisiveness over the last couple of years coming out of the White House.”
For people of color, it’s about just being given a chance, according to Dr. Bryant.
“At the end of the day, I am a Black man, I am married to a Black woman, I have two Black adult daughters, and all we want, like everyone else, is the American dream,” he said. “The problem comes when you get shut out because there isn’t a level playing field. This movement at its simplest is asking to be given (that) opportunity.”
When asked if he thought the Black Lives Matter youth movement might lose steam with so many colleges and universities opting for remote learning in the fall, Dr. Bryant acknowledged that while the movement may be missing out on a major opportunity to galvanize young people, face-to-face on college campuses, he is nonetheless optimistic.
“They may not be able to take advantage of that opportunity, but I am optimistic that they will find other ways to continue to make progress.”
Anne Marie Tobin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)