On Monday we honor the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of reflection and service. It is right to do so — always, and especially now.
Challenging cultural currents envelop the United States and countries abroad: racial and ethnic tensions, questions of bias and justice, heart-rending violence, and patterns of equality and inequality are as central today — albeit often different in form — as in the 1950s and 1960s of Dr. King. In this environment, we believe it is imperative for the University of Washington to step into, and not away from, our values of honest inquiry, careful analysis and essential — and often difficult — conversations.
We, as a community, are doing just this. In recent weeks our faculty, students and staff have held forums on policing and racial minorities, on media coverage of race and racial groups, and on legal and institutional responsibilities. Several faculty are planning “teach-ins” for the first week of February, our nation’s Black History Month. Faculty and staff across a number of academic units are helping to found a new Center for Communication, Difference and Equity that blends research, leadership development and community partnerships.
In two months, the world will commemorate the 50th anniversary of marches in Selma, Alabama, that spurred the landmark Voting Rights Act. A dozen faculty, students and staff will travel with UW alumni and others from Seattle on a weeklong civil rights pilgrimage, which will culminate with an international gathering at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In 1965, after marchers reached the Alabama capitol in Montgomery, Dr. King invoked the continuing push for equal opportunity and justice, asking “How long?” He answered with some of his most inspiring words: “Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
We are not bystanders in this mission: As one of the world’s foremost public universities, we must help the moral arc to bend. We do so in what we research, how and who we teach, and what we challenge our students to achieve. We do so in serving our communities as leaders, partners and citizens of Seattle and the world. On this day of reflection and service recognizing the profound work of Dr. King, there are numerous ways to engage with our communities. But as a lifelong journey, let us all commit to move the universe toward justice.
Michael K. Young, President
Ana Mari Cauce, Provost & Executive Vice President