On a normal June day, I would be working in my office, my window open, enjoying the background noise of a capital city alive with action. Instead, early in the morning on June 1st of 2020, I found myself standing on that same corner, looking at our city and reflecting on our country, torn apart by pain, anger and fear.
The brutal and unjustified killings of Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, are just a small list of the injustices that happen in a world where a white woman freely accuses an innocent black man of threatening her life; an unarmed young black man can be shot for walking in a hoodie; and a disease is able to decimate the physical and economic health of our minority communities. These are only some of the injustices that we see through social media and news coverage. We cannot fool ourselves by believing that what we see is all there is. What we see is the tip of the iceberg. Our black and brown neighbors know this, their parents knew this, their grandparents knew this, and sadly their children know this. We cannot allow this legacy of racism to continue past this generation – and all of us must be active partners in making this change.
Many of us are angry, sad, hurt and ashamed for our world. But we must do more than speak of our feelings and be reawakened to the need to work together towards racial justice and our shared vision for our cities and our nation. We should be filled with hope when we look at these pictures* that were taken outside our buildings over last weekend. They show the faces of our young voters and up-and-coming business and community leaders taking a stand. They show our community working together, making a difference. And they show the need for so many more of us to jump in with both feet.
*Photos Courtesy of Frank Jacobs
This is the time for each of us to assess our advocacy and action. No matter how much we have done, we know we can and must do better. Thomas Edison State University is committed to equity and empowerment, and I pledge to redouble our efforts to promote those goals and support increased opportunities across our institution and within our academic programming. The University is active in communities across New Jersey, including through the work of our John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy. We are rightfully proud of the work we do to drive social and economic equity across all populations, but the killing of George Floyd and others has demonstrated the explicit need to fight racism in all of our communities. In Trenton and throughout our state, we will encourage communities to examine their policies on the use of force by police, and to adopt reforms that will de-escalate conflicts and prohibit some forms of restraint. These are systemic and long entrenched issues and change will take purposeful and deep commitment.
We cannot turn our heads as the protests and news fade. The world we have around us is wrong. You know it. I know it. And the faces in these pictures need our help changing it. I ask that you join me in making TESU a force for change as we work together to challenge ourselves, learn from each other and deny racism the opportunity to continue to define our world.
Merodie A. Hancock, PhD