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Advancing toward greater social justice

A message to the UD community from President Dennis Assanis

Dear UD community,

Fifty-seven years ago today, the historic March on Washington held our nation to account for its history of racism and racial injustice. Today, a new generation gathered in the nation’s capital to push for racial equality and an overhaul of the criminal justice system.

Sadly, as a nation, we now find ourselves grappling with the latest shooting of a Black person during an encounter with police. This time it was Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who survived but was left paralyzed. Though the details vary, the pattern of violence is disturbingly familiar: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and more. Add Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin and others who were killed by citizens who believed they could take the law into their own hands, and the list is heartbreakingly long.

It is extraordinarily frustrating that Blake’s shooting comes just a few months after Floyd’s death that brought about a national reckoning on race relations. Instances of religious intolerance and anti-Semitism are also on the rise. It can feel that our society has made little or no progress toward social justice or, worse, that we never will. Like many of you, I am disappointed and angry.

So, what can we, as members of the University of Delaware community, do exactly?

We can all recognize the problem. Racial violence continues to happen in our country, to our fellow Americans and human beings. Our nation’s long history of racism and discrimination continues to reverberate today, influencing many of our subtle daily interactions with each other and sometimes erupting as overt aggression and violence. Recognizing the pervasive nature of this stain on our society is an essential first step in coming to terms with it.

We can own the solutions, too. Every one of us can become more aware of implicit bias in our lives, then choose to act in a more inclusive, accepting and socially responsible manner. As an institution, we can act, as well. UD continues to grow more diverse by attracting, supporting and retaining students, faculty and staff of color. We are developing new diversity programming and strengthening existing programs to cultivate a more welcoming culture at UD. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to build our diversity initiatives by adapting them to online platforms. We must continue and advance our support and advocacy for diversity and inclusion on and off campus.

One great example of this is the UD Antiracism Initiative, which is growing through the passion, creativity and commitment of a dedicated group of our faculty, staff and students. This effort amplifies and supports the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement and seeks to address the continuing challenges of systemic racism within UD, our nation and our world.

We are fully dedicated to being part of the solution, and while these steps all point our community in the right direction, we have so much more to do … together.

I sincerely wish that my words could eliminate racism and prevent the senseless violence endured by far too many people. We must act together. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said 57 years ago today, “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.” I encourage all of you to join me in recommitting ourselves every day to do what we can to build a more just, safe and equitable society for all.

Sincerely,

Dennis Assanis, President

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