May 31, 2020
Dear USM Community,
Last week our nation received an abhorrent reminder that racism is far more than a societal ill, soon to be cured. Racism lies deeply embedded in every corner of the American landscape. And it is often lethal.
Violent injustice has permeated our history. Now, however, the portal of technology brings millions of Americans to the recorded killing of George Floyd being suffocated in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers who ignored his desperate pleas for mercy. He joins a four-hundred-year column of black victims of white brutality, most recently Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade, among many.
This incident occurs against the backdrop of COVID-19, which has put on display how racism operates within the fiber of America. The virus disproportionately impacts communities of color as a direct result of carefully-crafted racial policies in housing, healthcare and employment.
As a university, USM stands against these injustices. We make a collective and individual call for accountability and justice. Today, we bear witness to the precarity of black lives, both at the hands of individuals, and at the hands of our systems and policies. Today, we are angry, disgusted and saddened. Today, we stand in solidarity with all those calling for an end to this legacy of racial violence. We remember that our ultimate calling is love.
But dismantling this legacy requires more than somber reflection. It requires action. So USM will take two immediate actions:
- USM will require all university police personnel, as well as all leadership staff (assistant directors and above) in Student Affairs, to complete the Racial Equity Institute program. REI will give our officers and staff tasked with overseeing disciplinary concerns a deeper understanding of the race-based structures of our history. To the credit of the leadership in both areas, full endorsement to this expectation came swiftly and supportively.
- USM will place philanthropic resources for Promise Scholars and Access to Education as one of our top priorities for fundraising in the campaign ahead. These scholarships highlight the potential for civic leadership in our student body and help erode the financial inequities that create barriers to higher education.
USM will also continue its Common Read Discussion Groups of Ibram Kendi’s How to be an Anti-Racist, and we call on every member of the USM Community to both read Kendi’s book and take part in a discussion group. Sign-up to join a group.
The USM leadership team has been its own How to be an Anti-Racist discussion group for months. We have finished the book and moved on to other materials, deepening our understanding of how oppression operates and perpetuates itself. We ask every department at USM to do the same.
Additionally, this summer 20 faculty and staff members will participate in USM’s first-ever Antiracist Institute. And I am pleased to announce that Dr. Kendi has rescheduled his postponed 2020 Commencement address and public lecture for May 2021.
As Kendi states: “One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist’.”
USM stands with those committed to dismantling racial inequities. Racism not only limits — it also kills. To stand silent in this moment is to stand with racism. Please stand as an anti-racist with USM.
Dr. Glenn Cummings