In an email to the community last night, the School of Arts & Sciences-Newark (SASN)'s incoming Dean Jacqueline Mattis and current Interim Dean Denis Paré sent out a joint statement in solidarity with our Black students, faculty, staff and community members.
The full message fom the Deans follows:
It is outrageous. It is outrageous that anyone must enter any conversation with a reminder that Black peoples’ lives matter—that Black people are present, that Black people belong, that Black peoples’ lives are significant and sacred. One consequence of our failure as a nation to confront our history of racism and racist violence is that we have yet to accept that Black people’s lives do matter. Most recently, the disregard for the sanctity of Black life was brought to the fore by the deliberate weaponizing of tropes of Black male threat (e.g., Amy Cooper’s contrived call to the police against birder Christian Cooper in apparent retaliation for being asked to comply with posted leashing rules); the refusal of officials to file charges against the White father-son pair who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery; the persistent use of coercive power (e.g., stop and frisk tactics) and lethal force by police against Black people (including Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Tony McDade); the inequitable responses of police to Black and White protesters; and the ease with which authorities and observers villainize Black victims and insist that they responsible for their own death. We can speak the names that we know, but must also acknowledge the many thousands who have suffered abuse, vilification, and even death without entering the public conversation.
You matter. Black lives, at all of their intersections, matter.
We stand in solidarity with our students, faculty, and staff who endure the everyday emotional, cognitive, physical, and spiritual labor of beating back fear every time they or their loved ones leave home (or stay home) to engage in the ever growing catalogue of activities that Black and Brown people cannot do safely. We see your sadness, fear, anger, and sheer exhaustion. As outrageous as it is to have to make this proclamation, we do so here: You matter. Black lives, at all of their intersections, matter. Black gay, trans, bi and gender non-binary lives matter. Black straight lives matter. Black immigrant and native-born lives matter. Black men’s and women’s and children’s lives matter. Black lives matter period!
But, we are long past the time when rhetoric can substitute for genuine commitment to justice. The proof of our commitment to justice is not in the promises that we make when emotions are high and when the impetus to feel good is often more compelling that a collective commitment to getting well. If we are to dismantle the generations-deep legacy of oppression that creates and sustains inequality and human vulnerability, we must do the everyday work of calling out injustice where we see it. We must do the necessary, difficult, and sometimes inconvenient work of building structures and engaging in everyday interactions that are compassionate, and that truly honor the dignity and humanity of all people.
Poet Gwendolyn Brooks reminds us that: “We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.” Her words remind us that we must do more than say ‘Black lives matter.’ We must act on the knowledge that we are responsible to and for each other, and that our fates are inextricably bound.
Jacqueline Mattis and Denis Paré