CIEE Statement on George Floyd, Black Americans, and Justice

Authored by:
James P. Pellow, Ed.D.

James P. Pellow, Ed.D.

CIEE joins the national outrage at the senseless murder of George Floyd, the centuries of discrimination suffered by millions of Black Americans, and America’s systemic failure to provide justice for every American. We support Black Lives Matter, the peaceful protesters across America, and other groups who call for action now. We join the call for every individual and every organization to take a pause from our normal activities to acknowledge that our country suffers from deep-seated hatred and a system of injustice that should not be ignored.  

CIEE was founded in the wake of World War II to help mend a world that had been at war for nearly half a century. It was founded on the belief that the key to peace is understanding and embracing our neighbors. For 73 years, we have delivered intercultural exchange programs that promote tolerance and build bridges between nations by teaching people to suspend judgement of people and ideas different from their own. Today, we feel compelled to extend our actions to address in concrete and material ways the injustice in America.

CIEE pledges to return even more intensely to our roots and founding purpose to harmonize international and interpersonal relationships. We pledge to move beyond rhetoric and take concrete actions at the organization, community, and national level that will advance in measurable ways our vision for a more peaceful, just world. We pledge to listen, to learn, and to leverage the means within our organization to do more to affect positive change.

How CIEE Will Do Better

Over the decades, we have tried to live up to our founding values through scholarships, program design, and by recruiting diverse employees. We have funded scholarship programs that promote access and leadership for diverse students, including the Frederick Douglass Global Fellows program and grants for Gilman and Pell-eligible students. But we need to do more to leverage this investment and support the development of future Black leaders.

We have embraced intercultural programs for our participants and employees that promote mutual understanding and respect. But we need to do more to support students on programs, and we need to provide more training to staff so they understand and embrace the diverse experiences and points of view of Black students and students of color.

We have endeavored to increase the diversity of our workforce, especially in the United States. But we need to do much more at all levels and all divisions within our organization.

How CIEE Will Use Our Voice

One of the most impactful ways to advance change in our communities is to support and elect leaders at every level of public service, from City Hall to the State House to Capitol Hill. We need leaders that genuinely embrace justice, harmony, fairness, and sharing the American dream with all Americans, especially Black Americans. We will seek ways to harness our organization’s ability to influence and elect public officials that actively promote true and equal justice for every American – Black, Brown, and White.

We will support groups and initiatives that promote racial justice. Here is a list of organizations we invite our employees and partners to learn about and support, as well as active campaigns and petitions where we and our network can add our voices to calls for justice.

How CIEE Will Educate Ourselves and Our Network

At the heart of CIEE is our belief that peace between people can be achieved through better understanding our neighbors’ experiences. As educators, we know that opening students’ minds through education is an effective way to change perspectives. To this end, we pledge to expand our education about the Black experience in America and commit to making sure that our policies, processes, language, and programming are anti-racist. We encourage all to expand their perspective by exploring some of the articles, books, videos, and podcasts created by and/or featuring Black voices that are aggregated here.

Since our founding, CIEE has responded to the world’s most challenging points of tension. We have done that with input and advice from our partners and our employees. Today, as we pledge to listen more and do better, we invite you to share with us your ideas, cautions, hopes, and reflections that might help us in this journey. We need your help. This journey will not be completed in a year, or even a decade. It will take daily commitment, a willingness to listen, and resolve to try again when mistakes are made. Please join us.

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