Message from Interim Provost Jan Love
June 3, 2020
"One healthy way to channel righteous rage in response to these maddening conditions is to get busy and get smarter about addressing systemic causes of racism and inequality in our own communities and across the nation," says Interim Provost Jan Love.
The following message was sent by Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs to the Emory community on June 3, 2020.
Rage, righteous rage. Not surprise, and not shock. The list of those killed in recent years, with Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor among the most recent additions, is outrageously long. My eyes were opened wide to racist brutality as a child, so for me there is no room left for surprise or shock. But righteous rage is an honest response, even a healthy response. And right now, legions of people are feeling it.
The streets are full of righteous rage: protesters declaring that police brutality against Black people must end; Black, brown and white marching together to stop white vigilantes from terrorizing Black citizens pursuing personal recreation; those expressing distress about the pandemic’s outsized impact of death and destruction among persons of color.
Like Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms – who, as some protestors turned violent, urged us to rise to our best, not sink to our worst – I have been deeply schooled in the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his teacher, Jesus. They have been at the center of my life too long for me to believe in the ethics or efficacy of violence. Acknowledging righteous rage, however, Martin Luther King, Jr. said that “A riot is the language of the unheard” and then asked, “What is it that America has failed to hear?” What indeed.
In the midst of racial violence, attempts to legitimize white supremacy, a deeply polarized country and world, widespread economic suffering, potentially catastrophic climate change, and a global pandemic, we could all become overwhelmed and paralyzed by grief, anxiety, and fear that there really is no way forward. But we know there is. We wouldn’t be dedicated to the transforming power of education if we didn’t think that there are productive and life-giving ways to address these problems. One healthy way to channel righteous rage in response to these maddening conditions is to get busy and get smarter about addressing systemic causes of racism and inequality in our own communities and across the nation.
Education is only one tool, but it is powerful. We at Emory have extraordinary opportunities to teach and learn together, delve deeply into both basic and applied research, and create new knowledge – all in the service of humanity. Our motto, “the wise heart seeks knowledge,” deliberately combines head and heart. Many of our students instinctively understand the intimacy of head and heart, and constantly inspire and push faculty, staff, and administrators to up our game on confronting the most daunting challenges, be they inside or outside the Emory community.
In recent days, these students have organized a petition joined by many faculty and staff. It proposes actions the Emory community and its leaders can take to provide a welcoming environment where all students thrive. I look forward to engaging with all stakeholders – students, staff, and faculty – to proactively undertake concrete changes that will move Emory closer to the diverse, equitable, and inclusive community we strive to be.
Righteous rage is a healthy immediate emotion in response to the outrageous violence we are witnessing perpetrated against Black people. If you want to be part of meaningful, productive, and life-giving change, definitely get mad, but then get busy. We all have work to do. Let’s do it together.
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs