Dr. Amy Ware
HDO Director
Lewis Miller
HDO Assistant Director

June 5, 2020

HDO Community,

These are frustrating and uncertain times. While we continue to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are confronted once again with evidence of our nation’s continued failure to address centuries of systemic racism and discrimination.

During these hard times, it is useful to turn an HDO lens on this issue and learn from our history by drawing from our nation’s most influential activists and artists.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, a pioneer in investigative journalism, worked through the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries to fight the failures of the criminal justice system when it comes to African Americans. In her 1895 The Red Record, she wrote, “The very frequent inquiry made after my lectures by interested friends is ‘What can I do to help the cause?’ The answer always is: ‘Tell the world the facts.’ When the … world knows the alarming growth and extent of outlawry in our land, some means will be found to stop it.”

Nearly 100 years later, in 1994, rapper Tupac Shakur explained the desperation and anger underlying years of fighting an unequal criminal justice system: “We was asking with the Panthers. We was asking with the Civil Rights Movement. We was asking. Those people that asked are dead and in jail. So now what do you think we’re gonna do? Ask?”

It is the job of academic institutions such as The University of Texas at Austin to investigate ideas and state facts. HDO carries that mission to an organizational context. What we see now are several organizations in conflict. Thanks to the efforts of Wells-Barnett and Shakur, among many, many others, we find ourselves on the same road in a new century with more knowledge and understanding thanks to those who came before us. May we all continue these efforts with peace and justice in mind.

Even when we agree about the problems we face, we may disagree about how to solve them. Another core tenet of HDO is that creating safe environments for people to express their opinions and to learn from each other is crucial to success resolving hard problems. HDO will remain a safe space to talk, ask questions, and learn.

The combination of a pandemic, an economic crisis, and racial injustice has many of us feeling emotionally overwhelmed. We will get through this, but it is okay to not be okay right now. Please seek help if you need it. Below are a few immediate resources:

Please feel free to reach out to the HDO team if you would like. We always love to hear from you. Our contact information is available here. We also recognize that this current situation may be confusing or hard to understand for some students. If you simply need someone to discuss this with, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

One of the joys of being a part of HDO is the family-like atmosphere we strive to create. That’s especially evident in this time of crisis. We are here for you and will try to help in any way possible.

Take care,
Amy and Lewis

UT Austin