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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Dear Campus Community,

On Monday January 17th, we observe and honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose impact persists in the way we do our work and the way we conduct our daily lives. To truly honor his life and lasting legacy, we must be steadfast in our fight against systemic racism and equally persistent in acknowledging that while progress has been made, there is still much work to be done.

The list of lessons learned from Dr. King is endless, but one most prominent is that fighting racism is not a check-list of accomplishments, and instead requires us to consistently assess and re-assess our own efforts. The face of racism shifts constantly as our society changes around us, and so we must continuously reflect on the ways that racist practices have been embedded into our institutions.

The racial protests of 2020 have sprung many of us leaders in higher education into action, and we must honor Dr. King’s legacy by ensuring that our energy and efforts do not fade with time. We hearken Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz’s message to our campus, which points to Dr. King’s emphasis of the ways in which unjust healthcare systems further perpetuate existing inequities. Chancellor Muñoz points to the ways in which the COVID pandemic has, “laid bare the painful equity gaps between the Central Valley and the rest of California, and even among some Valley populations.” We cannot ignore the intersections that exist within these unjust systems and continue to marginalize specific populations.

During my time here at UC Merced, I have observed a significant opportunity for transformative change – one that is inspired by Dr. King’s legacy – so long as we each hold ourselves accountable in the battle against racism and thus do so as a collective.

As Dr. King wrote, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Dr. King was as powerful as the community he built around him in his life of activism, and so the progress we make here at UC Merced relies on our ability to come together as a community and recognize that the fight against racism is not the responsibility of a select few, but our collective duty as practitioners in an institution of higher education. Together, we can bring about the transformative change that Dr. King dreamt of.

 

In community,

Cecil Howard, J.D.

Interim Vice Chancellor and Chief Diversity Officer