The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Dean's Statement on Acts of Racial Violence

JUNE 2, 2020

The University of Massachusetts Libraries stand with the University and Chancellor Subbaswamy in denouncing acts of racial violence, anti-Blackness, and institutional racism. Recent acts that have ravaged the country have a long history and are deeply embedded in our society.

Over the last few days we have witnessed a national outpouring of anger and grief as communities across the Commonwealth and the nation express outrage at the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. One of many recent acts of violence against Black, Latinx, Asian, and Native American people across this country, it comes at a time when tensions are high as the nation deals with the health and economic impacts of the global pandemic that has already highlighted entrenched disparities of treatment, care, and access among our communities. These overt acts of violent racism and bigotry are a highly visible part of a deeply-rooted systemic prejudice that goes back centuries.

Many of us in this country have been the beneficiaries of this system, whether willing participants or not.  The UMass Libraries, as part of a system of public land-grant institutions, exists to provide access to knowledge, and to help in the education of our students and the citizens of the Commonwealth.  Yet libraries are far from neutral, having benefited from a system that privileges a dominant narrative and the perspectives and experiences of a select portion of our society. Libraries, including ours, are working to make collections, spaces, and services more inclusive and reflective of a truly diverse society, but we still have a long way to go to in making substantial change. We must continue to strive to do better.

As Dean of the Library that is home to the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois, I have been inspired by his writing, and also saddened by the fact that 150 years after he was born in Great Barrington, MA, a system of institutional racism remains in place across this country. I am not a scholar of Dr. Du Bois, but I would like to think he would be inspired by the energy of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  I acknowledge the fact that I am able to move through the world on a daily basis with little thought to the systems of oppression that inspired Dr. Du Bois to dedicate his life to fighting for change, and I commit to working toward change, by first reflecting on how I can do better.  

I invite you to explore our guide on  Resources on Color and "Race”, created by members of the Libraries’ Diversity and Inclusion Committee.  I am inspired by those who have raised their voices in anger and protest, while recognizing that there is much work to be done to create real, sustained change.  We must all commit to engaging in the difficult work of anti-racism, with our colleagues at UMass, across the Commonwealth, and the nation.

Simon Neame
Dean, University Libraries