Dear Members of the Salem State Community,
I’ve yet to have the opportunity to meet many of you since joining Salem State as vice president for diversity and inclusion on June 2, 2020. I would like to take this opportunity to greet you and share a few initial thoughts as I continue to gain familiarity with the campus.
I am proud to join Salem State at a time where commitments to the Black Lives Matter Movement and Anti-Racism are being powerfully and publicly expressed at the highest levels of leadership. In my half century on this planet, I cannot recall a comparable moment. I am moved by the tremendous responsibility we share to generations of diversity champions who laid the groundwork.
My time on campus reaffirms the reasons I elected to move to Salem State. Salem State Vikings demonstrate passion for improving the social, economic, educational and professional circumstances of the community. I have met students, faculty, and staff with blunt criticism of systemic racism’s damage to campus; however, they continue to push for a Salem State that is measurably better at ensuring access and success for black and brown communities. This work has always been difficult. We should expect no less moving forward. The coming months will require us to tap deep reserves of commitment, caring, passion, perseverance, and trust. Together, this moment provides an opportunity for transformative impact. WE, the members of Salem State University, are positioned to make a difference. In the words of Grace Boggs, “We are the leaders we’ve been looking for.”
I conclude by directing you to a personal statement and reflection on the race-related events of the last month. I originally shared these thoughts with a small group of students. May our work together contribute to a region, state, and nation with diminishing lists of Black and Brown victims of police brutality and murder. I look forward to listening to you, learning from you, and working with you towards social justice.
Sean Bennett, EdD
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion
Statement from Sean Bennett, EdD, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion
As you can imagine, I have given considerable thought to everything I would say to the Salem State community during my first days on campus. I planned to share my enthusiasm for the work you have done and how we might carry that work forward.
Now, my initial thoughts ring hollow as I grapple with the impact of George Floyd’s death personally and professionally. Mr. Floyd’s murder exposes scars of institutionalized racism and leaves me feeling naked as I reflect on the vulnerability of my Blackness. In recent days, I have benefited from communication with a community of students, friends, family, and colleagues. There have been tears. There is anger. There is pain. Most importantly, there has been a resounding demand to be seen and heard.
I see you. I hear you. Even though I am new to the campus and it will take time to responsibly contribute to the work of Salem State. Don’t doubt that I see you. I hear you.
As an African American Descendent of enslaved people. A Black man. I see. I hear.
I can see that George Floyd’s murder is not a fresh wound. It is the current manifestation of multigenerational oppression and poverty. Even if you cannot comprehend my pain, please do not ask me to just get over it. Too often, the pain of racism is ignored, trivialized, and minimalized. I am not seen. I am not heard.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oluwatoyin Salau, Rayshard Brooks, Nina Pop, Elijah McClain, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown are not just people of color. Their stories bring me to tears. Murdered Black men, women, and children with names. I see you. I hear you. This moment is uncomfortable. All the more reason for me to acknowledge that I see and hear you. You are not invisible.
At this time, I ask the Salem State community to transmit love and light. There is a great deal that must be done moving forward but that work will only succeed if it is founded in love and support. This is not a message for only Black people. I ask everyone to share messages of affirmation and support. There are many people in pain and discomfort. Listen. Choose to be part of the healing process. We can do better.
If you need to speak to someone, access the support services that are available through Salem State University, which are listed below.
African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote “We Wear the Mask” in 1895. George Floyd’s death removed a mask that has been used to disguise racism and poverty. Let’s discard the mask, commit to being better versions of ourselves, and build a more fair and just community.
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, —
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
Resources and Campus Supports
- Inclusive Excellence 978.542.6507
- Counseling Services: 978.542.6413
- LEAD: 978.542.6506; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Student Life: 978.542.6401
- Racial Trauma Resource Guide
- Report an Incident or Concern
- LibGuide: Educating Ourselves about Whiteness and Anti-Black Racism
- Counseling and Health Services (for students)
- LEAD: Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy, and Diversity (for students)
- Polaris: Resources on Anti-Black Racism, Dismantling White Supremacy, and Black Healing (for employees)
- Employee Assistance Program: Mass4You (for employees)
Report Bias Incidents on Campus
- Dean of Students: 978.542.6401
- Residence Life: 978.542.6416
- Human Resources and Equal Opportunity: 978.542.6123
- Inclusive Excellence: 978.542.6507
- Click here to fill out a bias incident report online.