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Letter from the Dean | Reflections on Violence in Our Society

March 22, 2021
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Letter from the Dean: Reflections on Violence in Our Society

[March 19, 2021 – Parker, CO]

Dear RVUCOM community,

Violence happens in our world every day. Hate crimes that are motivated by ethnicity, race, gender, or sexuality happen all too frequently and they are not talked about nearly enough, not dealt with nearly enough, not prosecuted, not aired, not discussed, and not examined nearly enough. The purpose of a hate crime is to inflict larger damage, to increase the blast radius and damage beyond the explosion or gunshot itself. It is about violence, but not just about physical violence – it encompasses the instilling of fear and augments the sense of intimidation a particular community feels well beyond the ones who are specifically targeted. Violence is designed to dehumanize and dehumanization thrives in silence and we must do better. We must acknowledge, honestly, that these things happen in our world. We must acknowledge that hate and intolerance live in our world. We must acknowledge this, and we have to talk about it because acknowledgment and recognition are the first steps to creating a space that is safe and inclusive.

This past week, another occurrence of dehumanization once again rocked our world and stunned our consciousness. The murders of eight people in Atlanta, including six women of Asian descent, while not officially declared a hate crime, has intensified fear in the Asian community around the country. In February, Time magazine reported that hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment increased 1900% in New York City in 2020. This underscores how vital it is to have these conversations and speak up for all in our community because dehumanization thrives in silence.

We can never know what truly motivates such acts, but if we look deeply we can see patterns a abuse, pain, and confusion. To paraphrase Brene Brown, shame and blame are the root of dehumanization. Dehumanization is its own form of violence that includes how we talk to and about one another. Dehumanization fuels violence. Again, dehumanization thrives in silence.

There is tremendous value in having the conversation. We are proud of the DEI efforts that have taken place, and the conversations that have been started. We also recognize that these are first steps, baby steps, in a journey that lays out before us and includes some difficult conversations and uncomfortable dialogues.

Difficulty and discomfort are catalysts for growth and change and our ability to accept and even embrace those difficult and uncomfortable moments will determine the heights to which we can grow.

My heart breaks that this still occurs on such a regular basis. My heart breaks for those affected directly or indirectly by yet another senseless hate crime. So again, I acknowledge the senseless violence, for it is in keeping our eyes and hearts open that we are able to support one another, move through the pain, and strive to heal.

In this time of tumult and discontent, if you are having any kind of deep feelings that you are uncomfortable with and want to talk about, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Mental health support is available both within the confines of RVU and outside. Please contact Student Affairs for more information.

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Heather P. Ferrill DO, MS, MEdL
Dean, College of Osteopathic Medicine

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