Brad Byrd InDEPTH: Dr. Rob Shelby talks about racial injustice, Black Lives Matter and protests

In Depth with Brad Byrd

(WEHT) — Dr. Rob Shelby, chief diversity officer at UE, sits down with Brad Byrd to talk following this week’s events.


Brad Byrd: Your constitutional right to assemble and protest. But where is the line in the sand drawn. Following Wednesday’s indictment that did not charge Louisville police officers in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, it was a night of unrest. It is the latest chapter in a story that won’t go away. A perceived injustice and the violence it can cause. Joining me tonight is Dr. Rob Shelby, he is the Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Evansville. Dr. Shelby to start this conversation – the violence in Louisville hits pretty close to home for you, you work to get your doctorate at the University of Louisville. How has your connection there impacted with what’s going on there?

Dr. Rob Shelby: Yeah, so, you know, Louisville is so close to to Evansville. And to be honest, it’s been thinking about family members and colleagues who are still at the University of Louisville, working in the sociology department there. And there isn’t a moment that or a day that goes by where I’m not thinking about how it’s impacting, you know, family and friends who are still there trying to make sense of all of this in the real challenges is that even amongst my friends and family members, there’s a major divide about trying to figure out what this means.

Brad Byrd: Well, inclusion, and in simple terms, how we treat our fellow human beings for Black Americans, it’s called a systemic problem. It’s been called that for centuries. Are we really making progress Dr. Shelby in these troubled times as we see them now?

Dr. Rob Shelby: Well, I still think we’re making progress. And this is the difficult thing about, you know, major social change. It’s like watching grass grow, you can’t actually see it growing if you’re staring at it. But it has to be examined over time. And I think that what we’re experiencing right now, is when we have these significant flares in in violence and social injustice, like we’ve seen in Louisville and other major cities, it appears as if we’re not making the progress that we think that we should. And I would even say that, yes, we’re not advancing as we should, given the knowledge that we have, given the time period that we’re in but I would still submit that we are we are making progress. The protests actually demonstrate that we are no longer you know, willing to sit around and accept what is happening. And as if nothing is going on, we are standing up and voicing our opinion about what is going on and saying it’s enough.

Brad Byrd: And peaceful protest. Dr. Shelby is the message of Black Lives Matter, especially since the death of George Floyd being badly damaged, the message Black Lives Matter by those who do cause violence? The likes we have seen in several cities including Louisville last night.

Dr. Rob Shelby: You know, there’s typically a mix that you’ll see here. So the peaceful protests are definitely an expression of and a response to injustice. And we should, we should be seeing that happen. And this is not just about black and brown people in the streets, saying that this is wrong, it’s when we don’t see a broad collection of people out in the streets agreeing that this is wrong, that we can really see that there’s some challenges in our society. So does this really impact Black Lives Matter it’s when we move into the areas of violence, when rioting occurs, that we really can consider that. It’s not eroding the movement. But you know, even in the civil rights movement, we saw both things occurring, right. We had peaceful protests, and we had violence. And while I would not espouse to the violent response, it is part of a parcel of what we see in history, whenever injustice takes place, and protests are part of that process.

Brad Byrd: And how do you reach people and strive for change in the role that you now have at the University of Evansville? What are you talking about, what are a lot of people telling you, and how do you communicate that message to them?

Dr. Rob Shelby: Well, people are telling me that they’re, they’re really weary. They are struggling to try to figure out what the solutions to the problems are. Because it seems as if the problems are really easy to identify, but the solutions, um, there’s no ABC, D type of a solution. And so what I’ve been striving to do, and several of my colleagues is that I have been encouraging them we cannot give up. It would seem at this moment that what we should do is retreat to our corners, and listen to people who are only like us, who think like us and believe like us, but that doesn’t lead us forward. The type of progress that I was talking about earlier only comes in when we are actually working together, and guess what, it’s messy. And I think that the weariness is to be expected. And when it gets messy like this, that’s when we kind of want to check out. And what I encourage people to do is when you feel like it is time to give up, that is the actual indication that it’s time to step deeper into the fray and have those deep conversations. That’s been that’s been my, my protocol. That’s what I’ve been trying to encourage people to do. And that’s what I practice on a daily basis.

Brad Byrd: Dr. Rob Shelby, Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Evansville, thank you very much for taking time to talk to us tonight.

Dr. Rob Shelby: Thank you.

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