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Reflections on the violence and actions in Washington, DC from the Co-chairs of the President’s Special Racial Justice Task Force

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Subject: Reflections on the violence and actions in Washington, D.C. from the Co-chairs of the President’s Special Racial Justice Task Force


Good afternoon BSU community,
As we continue to reflect on the violence and chaos that took place one week ago today in our nation’s capital we know for certain that it was not a protest, nor was it democracy in action. Rather, it was an assault on democracy. Violent, armed rioters were seeking to overthrow an election, stoke fear and hate, and sever the already frayed edges of the increasingly fragile fabric that binds us, including flying a Confederate flag in the Capitol.
A few months ago, we witnessed violence and chaos in our nation’s capital. The stark difference, however, was the level of force turned against peaceful, Black Lives Matter protesters seeking an end to racial injustice and calling for unity and equality. That peaceful call was met with a violent show of force and was also an assault on our democracy.

At the same time, we are living with a global health crisis. Thousands are dying, health care systems are overwhelmed, jobs, businesses, and homes have been lost, and communities are suffering and struggling. The suffering and the struggling have fallen most harshly on black and brown communities.

These are devastating examples of the profound and pervasive effects of systemic racism and it is abundantly clear that we still have not taken to heart the prescient words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We must endeavor to work for justice, equity, and truth and stop the spread of the contagions of hate, fear, ignorance, and the dehumanization of the other.

We have heard repeatedly that we are better than this. The question remains, are we?

This is beyond partisan politics. As citizens in this democracy, we have an obligation and a responsibility to interrogate what happened last week, hold those involved responsible and accountable, and then work to fix what is broken and dividing us. As President Clark reminded us, we must recommit ourselves to the pursuit of truth, the provision of equitable opportunities for a quality higher education, service to others, and to the preparation of citizens who understand their role within our enduring democracy to create a more just, inclusive, and compassionate society.

Inherent in this important work is that white citizens have a particular responsibility and an obligation to listen and to acknowledge racial divides, racial injustice, and racial violence, and to accept that we have not reconciled 400 years of history, and demand better.

Then, we have to do better. We can remove the barriers of racial inequity and injustice and we can, working together in partnership and community, strengthen and rebuild a democracy that is inclusive and equitable.

Most people try every day to do better, to be better, to build better, healthier, fulfilling lives for their families and their communities. We have serious and sustained work to do to ensure that this is not an individual responsibility, but a collective responsibility. What will our children think of us if we fail to do so?

Shortly before he died, in reflecting on these deep divides, Congressman John Lewis said that “Adversity can breed unity, hatred can give way to love, we have to go forward as one people, one family, one house – I believe it, I believe we can do it.”

As we continue our work to achieve racial and social justice at BSU, let’s prove Congressman Lewis right.


Davede Alexander
Trustee, Bridgewater State University

Dr. Mary Grant 
Senior Administrative Fellow for Civics and Social Justice

Dr. Carolyn Petrosino
Professor Emerita of Criminal Justice

Co-chairs, Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice