“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These words begin the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence. At the time they were written, women were not meant to be included but, since that time, the statement has been considered by many to refer to all individuals being created equal. But the rights spoken of in the Declaration, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” have never been enjoyed fully by Black people in this country. Why, in the year 2021, do parents have to live in fear that their teenage or adult children may be the victim of violence by the police? Why do Black people earn less, have poorer health outcomes, and have shorter lives than white people? Why were Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, and hundreds more killed?
This past year has been a watershed moment in our nation, a reckoning. Will we, as a society, advance toward justice and equality, or will we make a few superficial changes and be content to allow these inequalities to continue?
MassBay Community College rejects the status quo. Our community is committed to change: to eradicating the inequalities and injustices that Black people have lived with on this land since 1619. As an educational institution, we seek to make change through learning, both by our students and by the faculty and staff. As a community, we seek to live by the values of fairness, empathy, and respect. We reject violence by anyone but, in particular, violence by the police against the very citizens they are sworn to protect.
When the Black Lives Matter movement began, I heard some respond by saying, “All lives matter.” Such a response misses the very point of the expression “Black lives matter.” The words “Black lives matter” needed to be said to counter centuries of slavery, segregation, lynching, discrimination, oppression, denial of opportunity, and state-supported violence. In history and to this very day, our society repeatedly denies Blacks “the unalienable rights… [of] life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that we so proudly teach our children are a bedrock of this country.
MassBay commits itself to looking for and rooting out systemic racism within our policies and procedures; to educating ourselves and our students to understand the manifestations of structural racism in the larger society; and to be allies and advocates for one another in a community free of bias, inequality, and hate. Let us instead be an anti-racist community committed to the improvement of our larger society. MassBay is working to achieve racial equity within our own community and beyond.
— David Podell, Ph.D.
President, MassBay Community College