DEI Director of the Yale School of Nursing’s resigns with a powerful message to students

Below is the full text of an email sent by former Yale School of Nursing DEI Director, Raven Rodriguez. As a current YSN GEPN Midwifery student, I received this email on 10/22/2020 and am reposting it with Raven’s permission.

Dear Students,

I am writing to you to inform you of my decision to immediately resign from YSN as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. I have reached this decision to prioritize my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

My hope is that each of you included in this message knows that despite how hard whiteness has tried to center itself in anti-racism work, my work at YSN has always been about black people. I stayed at Yale for black people, and I am leaving Yale because of the way black people are treated. I am so deeply appreciative of all the wisdom and support you have shared with me on some of the most difficult days. I have learned from your expertise and admired your bravery in so many ways you are unaware of. Please know that you have shown up for me and for each other in ways that have imprinted my spirit forever.

It is most hard today not to think of the black people from all corners of this institution who regularly experience racism. The brilliant minds who are made to feel like imposters in an institution that once relied on money derived from slavery to fund its programs and scholarships. Since the murder of George Floyd and the movements of global unrest that have followed, it has become abundantly clear that Yale has always been a dangerous place for black people to learn and work, and an even more dangerous place for us to speak out. I have learned so much about myself in this role and even more from the incredible conversations many of us have participated in together. Most importantly I have learned that there is no title or salary imaginable worth watching you all arrive at Yale excited and idealistic about their futures, only to grow discouraged and depressed from your experiences with racism.

I am so thankful to have witnessed a small glimpse of your efforts to transform Yale. It truly pains me to know that your hard work is often delayed and discarded to maintain an oppressive status quo. I want to thank ALL of you for your physical, emotional, and spiritual labor. Please know that your voices are too powerful to be silenced and your brilliance cannot be overlooked. I am PROUD to leave Yale knowing that in the next few years a MASSIVE wave of genius will be leading the charge against structural racism in health care.

I ask that you continue to take care of yourselves and each other. Remember that this work looks very different on different days and always ground yourselves in these truths:

(1) Racism is the problem and you cannot fix a problem you refuse to name.

(2) Equity is about decentralizing white power.

(3) The factors that continue to cause poor health outcomes in BLACK/BROWN/INDIGENOUS people are SOCIAL and NOT biological.

(4) You CANNOT do anti-racism work without a fundamental (historic AND scientific) understanding of race.

I hope our experience has left you with half the knowledge you have left me with. Always remember to do what you can wherever you go. Never shut your brain off for anyone. Challenge ALL limited imaginations — starting with your own. Develop your own theory of success. And always, always, always know that there are no colorblind solutions.

“What does it mean when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy? It means that only the most narrow perimeters of change are possible and allowable.” — Audre Lorde, The Masters Tools Will Never Dismantle The Masters House

With love, respect, and gratitude -

Raven Rodriguez

October 22, 2020

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