Dear Rutgers University – Newark community members,
The shameful siege on the U.S. Capitol today and on democracy, itself, has once again thrown our nation’s divisions into sharp relief. There is a political chasm between the mob that stormed the U.S. Congress this afternoon and the majority of Americans whose commitment to resolving differences democratically swelled the ranks of voters this election season to record highs. Likewise, in the images of the how today’s mob was initially met, we find painfully stark contrasts with Black Lives Matter protests in cities across the country over the past year, in so many of which squads clad in military battle gear immediately confronted peaceful protestors on the presumption that the protestors posed an imminent threat to our nation’s political solvency.
While it will take the distance of time from today’s events to fully process what they mean for American democracy going forward, I am mindful right now of the way that Newark’s Black Lives Matter protest—in which so many of our Rutgers-Newark family members participated—remains as a model not only in the protestors’ combination of righteous outrage and peaceful comportment, but in the supportive environment for political expression created by the City of Newark and Newark Police Department. That moment emerges vividly for me this evening from the fog of the day’s events as a beacon of hope, as does the response of our students this past fall to our collective, urgent call to express their political will by voting.
To my mind, it is in community’s like ours—at Rutgers-Newark and in Newark—where America has its best chance to find the way forward, person to person, in what the philosopher John Dewey called “conjoint living,” the essence of democracy .As we continue through the uncharted territory of the pandemic into a new semester, and with a new administration in Washington, D.C., let’s remember that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”