Dear Members of the LTI Community,
Like many of you, I was horrified by the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. I wish that I could say I was shocked, but I remember Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Amadou Diallo, and other African Americans who died from police and vigilante violence. Although there has been much improvement in civil rights during my life, the mistreatment of African Americans by police and the judicial system has been and continues to be shameful.
Often it feels that we are powerless to change the world. We are only powerless if we stay silent and do nothing.
Ours is not a perfect society, but it is capable of change. During my lifetime, the civil rights and gay rights movements changed laws and attitudes that many thought would never change. What we are witnessing right now is American change in action. Across the country, people are raising their voices and shouting "These are not our values! This cannot continue!" Like many of you, I support the protestors and their pleas for justice and change. This can be one of those moments in our history when things actually change in a meaningful way.
Here at the LTI, we can work to broaden and diversify participation by underrepresented groups both at the LTI and in our research communities. Some of us are already working to identify and remove cultural biases in machine learned models, and to detect and promote voices in social media that counter hate speech. These are good starts, but we could do so much more.
Tomorrow (Wednesday), #ShutDownAcademia and #ShutDownStem urge you to spend the day for reflection, education, and action in pursuit of confronting and combating systemic racism and injustice. The University supports this effort, as do I.
I hope that you will share your feelings and ideas about how we individually and collectively can address the problems that our society faces. Please reach out to me if you want to talk or have ideas or suggestions.
Although our community is united in condemning violence and discrimination against people of color, we must also recognize that some in our personal lives experience this pain as part of their daily experience. As we raise our voices and work to change the status quo, let us not forget that compassion, empathy, and friendship are enduring sources of strength. Please know that we care about you and we are here for you.
Interim Director, LTI