Our promise — and invitation
Magazine associate editor Kristen Schmidt explains the why and how of this issue’s stories about racial justice and equity.
ThIs issue marks three years since Ohio State Alumni Magazine received a makeover in body and spirit. Readers tend to notice the body part — the contemporary look of the magazine, the beautiful photography and design. Speaking as a member of the team that brings you this magazine every quarter, that’s the relatively easy part. There are rules, hard and fast, down to the amount of space between lines of text. The part we pour love and labor into, what we nurture and worry about, is the spirit. With each issue, are we meeting the promise we made to you — to make this publication a gathering place for Ohio State’s vast alumni family? Are we honoring our pledge to create space to celebrate achievements and engage in important dialogues, just as we might with our own family members?
With a 16-page package of stories about racism in this issue, we unequivocally recognize systemic racism, a plain fact that is bewilderingly divisive. We state this plainly and without reservation: Racism is not only alive in America. It is thriving and breaking bodies and hearts. It will not be legislated or marched or wished away. Racism — the created notion that skin color denotes human value and privilege — is inextricably rooted in American life.
We can debate and disagree on so many things. What does “defund the police” really mean? What are the best ways to create access to quality education for all children? How can every American receive state-of-the-art health care? How will we ensure the treasures of our culture — our works of art and creative expression — reflect our entire culture? But we will not debate the truth at the heart of those questions: Our nation is rife with inequities, and those inequities must not stand.
With this collection of stories about racism — including acknowledgement that Ohio State must work harder in its quest for equity — we are inviting you to conversations that make some people squirm. We can’t make this easy or comfortable. But we have made our best effort to make it constructive and thought-provoking. We, an all-white magazine staff, could not have done this work without the advice and input of a team of advisors from many areas of the university, including the people who appear on these pages. We have blind spots, and these alumni, faculty, staff and students helped us recognize them. We have relied on the constructive and refreshingly pointed feedback of colleagues who are Black, Indigenous and people of color who have questioned our assumptions, led us toward knowledge and served as full partners in delivering these stories to you. We could not — and should not — have done it without them.
In the same vein, this magazine is nothing without you and your voices. We hope never to become a monolith speaking at you from a faceless institution. We hope to both reflect and shape Ohio State through the voices in this gathering place. We always invite your letters and reactions to this magazine, and we redouble that invitation now. As we say in the message that opens our stories about racism, the only way is through. We can’t sit out this conversation or wait for it to pass. It will not pass. It will continue to fester and destroy lives and generations of our neighbors. Let’s do the hard work together. Let’s talk about it and act on it.