Dear USM Community,
Weeks before his passing, legendary civil rights leader and longtime Georgia Representative John Lewis reflected on the Black Lives Matter Movement in his first network television interview since the death of George Floyd. The co-leader of the March from Selma to Montgomery and the widely acknowledged conscience of Congress said the Black Lives Matter Movement, “feels and looks so different. It is so much more massive and all-inclusive.”
Lewis also made this firm prediction about the Movement’s impact: “There will be no turning back.”
We agree. And in support of Lewis’ declaration, the Movement itself, and Black, Indigenous and People of Color everywhere, we say Black Lives Matter. Period.
We recognize that to reach our goals — to be student-focused every day, to be a great university to work for, and to uphold the principles of equity and justice — we must add our voices to the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Some, perhaps motivated by a sense of fairness, may ask why we do not proclaim that all lives matter.
The inconvenient truth is that history provides plenty of evidence that the lives of Black, Indigenous and People of Color haven’t mattered as much as white lives. And there are ample reasons why saying that all lives matter misses the point and is, in fact, hurtful. If there is doubt about the inequities and injustices that Black, Indigenous and People of Color experience every day and the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement, please consider these realities:
- The pandemic continues to claim Black lives at more than three-and-a-half times the rate of white mortality.
- The multiplier effects of racism and the pandemic are prompting mental health experts to warn of a looming increase in suicidal ideation among Black Americans.
- Intentionally constructed and deeply ingrained racist policies continue to deny Black, Indigenous and People of Color access to education, employment, housing, healthcare, justice and voting — and increase their chances of incarceration.
- Too many syllabi feature perspectives that reflect and reinforce white privilege.
- Too few positions of leadership and influence in government, industry, and academia are held by Black, Indigenous and People of Color.
- Too many people continue to pose defiantly with Confederate flags to frame white supremacy as tradition and heritage.
For all of these reasons — and until we eradicate the systems of racism that harm Black, Indigenous and People of Color daily — we must never tire of declaring that Black Lives Matter.
As has been made clear by recent social media posts, there are USM students, faculty and staff who have experienced racism right here at USM. We are listening and we acknowledge the frustration and pain. That is why we are providing the USM community with an opportunity to publicly commit to doing the work that is required to stamp out bigotry and end the conditions and structures that have suppressed Black, Indigenous and People of Color for too long. We stand in solidarity with those who are working for justice and change. And we invite you to join us in pledging to be a practicing antiracist at the University of Southern Maine and in all aspects of your life.
We believe, as Ibram Kendi writes, that “the only way to undo racism is to constantly identify it and describe it — and then dismantle it."
Please consider committing to the practice of antiracist behaviors. Below, we outlined some suggestions for ways you can practice antiracism. No administrator will see the names of people who completed a form to pledge their practice antiracist behaviors.
On behalf of the Cabinet, thank you and best wishes,
Dr. Glenn Cummings
Suggestions for practicing antiracism
- If appropriate, become involved with the Intercultural and Diversity Advisory Council (IDAC) and the Faculty and Staff of Color Association (FSOCA).
- Give of your time and resources to organizations that are working to end racism.
- Read our Common Read, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi, and join a USM-sponsored discussion group of the book.
- Engage with the “Tools of Resilience” resources.
- Attend workshops, events, and conferences that focus on race-related issues.
- Educate yourself about oppression.
- Call out biased language or behavior.
- Call out friends and family members who say racist things.
The Members of the President's Cabinet
|Jeannine Diddle Uzzi||Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs|
|Natalie Jones||Vice President of Human Resources|
|Alec Porteous||Chief Operating Officer & Chief Business Officer|
|Jared Cash||Vice President for Enrollment Management & Marketing|
|Jeanne Paquette||Vice President of Corporate & Workforce Engagement|
|Ainsley Wallace||President & CEO of the USM Foundation|
|David E. Roussel||Associate Vice President for Student Affairs|
|Marc Glass||Director of Strategic Messaging|