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Confronting the Injustice that Surrounds Us

A Message from the Dean

To the HGSE Community, 

I write to you as a new semester is just underway, and as we continue to embrace the chance to be together in stimulating conversation, advance our shared commitment to improving opportunities and outcomes for every learner, and celebrate important milestones in the company of friends and mentors.

I also write to you at a time when we are yet again forced to confront the violent images and injustice that surrounds us: the joyous celebrations of Lunar New Year interrupted by a mass shooting; the brutal murder of a young man in Memphis who was just trying to get home to his mother; and closer to home here in Cambridge, the tragic killing of a troubled young man whom the police were called to help. Farther away, the ongoing violence of war in Ukraine and the deaths of more than 100 people at a mosque in northern Pakistan underscore the scale of the sadness, uncertainty, and loss that many of us feel.

And yet, we push on. Today, there is a celebration of the life of Tyre Nichols in Memphis and a renewed push for police reform across the country. Meanwhile, local community members continue to push for change after the Cambridge shooting death of Sayed Arif Faisal with increasing discussion about improving the approach to mental health crises. Still, the U.S. continues to grapple with the fact that there have already been 53 mass shootings this year. As Sherri Charleston, Harvard’s Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, wrote in a message yesterday, we can do better.

Today is also the start of Black History Month, a time set aside to mark the intellectual and cultural contributions of Black Americans. I take inspiration from the work of Carter Woodson, the educator who also completed his Ph.D. at Harvard and who endeavored to establish this time of celebration nearly 100 years ago. In his broader work, Woodson connected the failings of the U.S. education system directly to the broader systemic oppression that Black people faced. He shone an inescapable and still hot spotlight on the fact that by squashing or rendering invisible the stories, the successes, and even the very history of Black people, education was perpetrating an injustice that rippled across society. By reflecting on the lessons that Woodson taught, we can come to see the ways in which continuing oppression affects all people. But we can also see a way beyond that oppression, and the important role education plays. As our own Jarvis Givens wrote in a recent Boston Globe article, many observe Black History Month by not only drawing connections between the past and present but also through “sustained study and struggle against anti-Blackness year-round.” And so, I encourage us all — as a community of educators — to learn, know, bear witness, and act against all forms of hate and erasure.

As I have written before, it is normal to feel a sense of grief, anger, and exhaustion. We routinely witness and feel the oppression of people and groups by systems of power that too often allow or even encourage exclusion and injustice. The harm of racism, bigotry, and discrimination extends to every corner of the world and attacks diverse communities of every shade, identity, and background.

But I am determined to continue down the path of hope, action, and progress, and I hope you will join me on that path. As has been the case throughout my over two decades as a member of this HGSE community, I am supported and bolstered every day by the boundless energy, determination, and innovation of the people who surround me (whether here on Appian Way or in our global community) — people who refuse to tolerate the status quo, who are endlessly working to make a difference.  

Let that energy be our guide as we navigate through these complex, difficult, and cold winter days. I stand with you in your pain and determination as we search for ways not just to overcome the long-standing inequities that oppress the dreams of too many of our fellow human beings, but to rid ourselves of those inequities entirely. 

Be well,

Bridget Long, Ph.D.
Dean and Saris Professor of Education and Economics
Harvard Graduate School of Education  

To learn more, please access the resources of HGSE’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as well as the University Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging. For student support, visit Harvard’s Wellbeing and Mental Health website. Faculty and staff can get support through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The Harvard Chaplains are also available to offer pastoral support and guidance to members of the University.

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