Protests, justice and Williams

To the Williams community,

Protests have broken out around the country this week in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. The protests have gone beyond individual tragedies, to address deep, longstanding concerns about racism and injustice.

I am disgusted, saddened and angered by ongoing racism in all forms and places. Anti-Black racism in particular has a long history in this country, with daily implications for Black communities seeking justice and equality. Recent events have highlighted again how much work we still have to do as a nation to fight this scourge. I hope and trust that, wherever you are, you are fighting inequality and injustice, lending your voice to peaceful protest, making change, caring for yourselves and each other.

The most effective and long-lasting manner in which Williams can work toward this goal is by providing students with ways to hone their analytical and argumentative skills, which they can channel toward such ends. Indeed, in a normal year, students, faculty and staff would be pursuing these opportunities on campus. Our awareness of events would suffuse classroom and dining hall discussions, scholarly work and campus programs, lectures and meetings and rallies.

But this is not a normal year. In the absence of our ability to lift our collective voices in person, I am writing this letter to state unequivocally that Williams condemns racism, violence, and injustice and will continue using its resources to help students—and society writ large—better understand these forces so we can continue to fight them.

Even in a year of social distancing, when campus is nearly empty, this work continues. Yesterday, members of our community joined the NAACP’s call for action—a rally in Pittsfield’s Park Square. And this coming week you will be invited to participate in a discussion on racial violence in America hosted by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Throughout the week we will provide additional virtual opportunities to come together for support and engagement.

Our community is in pain, especially Black students, staff and faculty. Even though we are apart, Williams should use the power of our community to make sense of and respond to tragedy and injustice. We will continue this work together, now and when we are finally able to reconvene on campus.