Dear MMC Students, Faculty, and Staff:
The College’s Chief Diversity Officer, Rebecca Mattis-Pinard, recently shared a message with our community in which she reflected on the nation’s sickening history of racism, as evidenced in repeated police brutality against Americans of color. You will find Rebecca’s sorrowful message here. I add my voice to Rebecca’s and to the voices of people around the country who feel anger and grief over the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who died tragically as a white police officer pinned him to the ground and deprived him of air, while other officers stood by and did nothing.
The murder of George Floyd and of other Black and Brown Americans at the hands of those in authority is a tragedy beyond words. Widespread outrage at a shocking pattern of police brutality has sparked protests across the country and has powerfully surfaced, yet again, the blatant racism and inequality that pervade the society in which we live.
I am personally horrified and devastated. I am hurting for the lives lost to senseless violence at the hands of the police, and I am hurting for the Black community—a community that experiences ongoing injustices as a result of structural racism. I also recognize that, as a white person in a position of power, I cannot fully fathom the pain experienced by members of our Black community. I understand that I must examine the privilege that makes me safer, more accepted, and more visible than people of color in this country.
At MMC, a predominantly white institution (PWI), I believe we have a particular responsibility to create a learning environment in which students, faculty, and staff feel safe because they are safe, and feel a sense of belonging because the community as a whole actively and visibly values each person. I believe we must respond to the events that are taking place across the nation by being willing to ask difficult questions of ourselves and others. We must be fearless in acknowledging and addressing white privilege and structural racism. And we must unequivocally assert that Black Lives Matter.
Although, as a college, we have made progress in developing an anti-racist culture, now is the time for us to reaffirm our commitment to interrupting racism whenever we witness it and to creating an inclusive community that honors the experiences of people of color. I will advise our faculty and staff leadership to develop and implement ways of actively dismantling policies and practices that unknowingly perpetuate racism at the College, and to focus on building intentional spaces to support our communities of color.
To members of our community who are joining the protests to express your anguish and grief, I am proud of you for exercising your right to peacefully demand justice and fair treatment for the Black community. To those who decide to protest, I encourage you to do so safely in your respective towns and cities and to work to maintain the safety of those around you. To those who are shaken by the events here in New York and around the country, and whose lives have been weighed down by sorrow and grief, I hope you are surrounded by spaces filled with love, compassion, and healing.
Before concluding, I want to take note of the historic role that protest movements have played in triggering lasting social change. It is not lost on me, as a gay person, that the current movement for justice and equity is coinciding with Pride month. LGBTQ rights and Pride were born of a protest movement—the Stonewall Riots of 1969—demonstrations that were led in large part by activist Marsha P. Johnson and other Black trans women.
The current movement is gathering momentum, and it is my sincere hope that it will lead to a more just and equal society. As a college community, we commit to channeling this momentum into creating visible progress toward achieving genuine inclusion and equity, and expressing our shared values through action.
Kerry Walk, Ph.D.