Race Relations and Respect

November 26, 2014

To the members of the MIT community,
Monday night, following the decision of a grand jury in Missouri not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown, many in our community were deeply distressed, including many of our black students. Several of them created signs around MIT with the message that "Black Lives Matter." It grieves me to report that at least one of these signs was defaced in a very disparaging way.
During the last few days, community members have been affected by the events in Ferguson, Missouri in different ways. As shocking as the defacement was, it is only one source of pain; students also report encountering painful differences of view about race relations.
These differences drive home the fact that we still have a great deal to learn from each other. Conversations about race can be uncomfortable, but learning occurs when we move beyond the reflexive and familiar to listen with empathy and mutual understanding.
I hope, in this Thanksgiving week and always, that as members of one community we treat each other with respect. My heart goes out to those who are suffering, and I encourage those around them to offer understanding and kindness. Above all, I hope that our community can deliberately move beyond difference to seek the common ground of our shared humanity.
L. Rafael Reif