President Peñalver reflects on Juneteenth

Posted by President Peñalver on Friday, June 17, 2022 at 11:34 AM PDT

Dear Campus Community,

On Juneteenth, we remember the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans in 1865.  Ending 250 years of slavery in North America was a crucial first step in the unfinished journey towards freedom and equality for Black Americans, one that continues to the present day.  We celebrate the important milestone represented by Juneteenth as a reminder of how far we have come even as we acknowledge the continued impact of a century of Jim Crow, ongoing discrimination, and embedded structures of racism.  

The Buddha once said that we cannot untie a knot without knowing how the knot was tied.  Understanding the history that has shaped our society and that continues to reverberate into the present is a duty that we all share.  On Juneteenth, we remember our past in order to better understand our present so we can recommit ourselves to building a more just future. 

As a university dedicated to empowering leaders for a just and humane world, untying the knots of racism means equipping our students with the intellectual resources necessary to understand structures of injustice and to effect lasting and positive change.  In our learning community, we advance these goals in a number of ways. Our faculty engage in rigorous research that analyzes the social and economic mechanisms that connect historic (or ongoing) racist practices with persistent inequalities. And they work to evaluate proposed remedies with equal empirical rigor. Our staff enhance the student experience of our unique holistic education through their dedication to our students’ success and development. Thus, we all must invite the personal self-reflection required to be a part of systemic change.

This work takes on a special importance at a Jesuit university, where we are called to do our part to accompany our students in the creation of a hope-filled future.  Helping to build that future involves all of us doing our part to dismantle systems of racism.  At Seattle University, that means assessing our own practices to ensure they are equitable.  Our Reignited Strategic Directions call on us to undertake this assessment and to act on what we learn. 

In the spirit of untying the knot through ongoing reflection and deepening understanding, I invite you to explore the Inclusive Excellence Summer Reading List curated by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and a list of resources and local Juneteenth-related events. As we observe Juneteenth, I call on us all to reflect on the role we each play in empowering a more just and humane world.

Sincerely,

Eduardo Peñalver

President