Charleston speaks with On Wisconsin magazine about racism, policing, protests, and hope

A conversation with the School of Education’s LaVar Charleston was featured in the Fall 2020 issue of the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s On Wisconsin magazine.

LaVar Charleston
LaVar Charleston

Charleston is the School’s associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion, and a clinical professor with the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

In the Q&A feature, headlined “Systemic Racism Does Indeed Exist,” Charleston spoke about the impact of racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and how UW–Madison is positioned to lead anti-racist efforts during this crucial time.

Speaking about how he felt after hearing of George Floyd’s death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in May, Charleston said the scenario felt familiar.

“If you’re in the Black community, you know someone this has happened to: discrimination, abuse, and violence at the hands of police,” said Charleston. “You envision yourself, your father, your nephews, your kids, your grandparents in that space.”

However, Charleston said he is encouraged by ways UW–Madison is working to become more equitable and to respond to racism in our society.

“I’m seeing the campus commit to hiring more folks of color, and to creating affinity groups so people can come together and talk about these issues,” he said. “I’m seeing the chancellor tell folks of color that they matter, which is a strong statement that must be backed up by action and accountability. We have a provost who is working with the deans to create a sense of belonging in the schools and colleges. The office of admissions has a whole team of recruiters, led by a new assistant director, that is focused on diversifying the campus. And schools and colleges are implementing diversity leaders like myself, as well as programs and initiatives that help equip folks with tools to be anti-racist.”

“The increased interest and, importantly, action give me hope,” he continued. “We’re taking advantage of this moment to create more equitable working and learning environments.”

Read more of what Charleston had to say on this important topic via the On Wisconsin website, here.