Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Watson Institute, Brown University

A message from Director Ed Steinfeld

For months now, we have been confronted in the rawest and most grotesque manner by that which we know has been central to the American experience for centuries – structural racism, racialized violence and subjugation, and structural inequality, all directed against black, brown, and native Americans. We have witnessed it most recently in the racialized mortality rates of the Covid-19 pandemic, the vulnerability of essential but previously “invisible” workers, and now, the murder of George Floyd under the knee of a law enforcement officer. None of this is new. None of this is an aberration. None of this is tolerable.  

The mission of the Watson Institute calls for us to promote a just and peaceful world through research, teaching, and public engagement. Order, of course, is an aspect of peace. But, there can be no lasting peace without justice. Nor can there be true peace without human dignity. To the extent order is prioritized over justice and dignity, we are lost as a society. We stand in solidarity with all those who are fighting to ensure that the present reality of injustice not be permitted to persist. 

As an educational institution, the Watson Institute in recent years has been committed to the study of structural racism, mass incarceration, inequality, gender discrimination, and the militarization of both domestic policing and foreign policy. We will continue those inquiries with renewed urgency, including in the variety of global contexts in which we situate our research. Moreover, as an educational institution, we are committed to providing a platform for debate and discussion open to all members of our community, whether here on campus or beyond. 

We are in the business of studying and teaching. But, so too are we in the business of listening and learning. Extraordinary expertise exists here at Brown on the American experience of racial violence and subjugation. This expertise extends across the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, the Department of Africana Studies, and a variety of other disciplinary units. We stand in solidarity with those units, and will continue to partner and learn from them as we seek greater understanding of the abuses of power and the tools of oppression that continue to be used to crush the dignity of black, brown, and indigenous people.

Ultimately, knowledge and awareness are our most potent instruments of progress. In these desperately forbidding times, I remain hopeful that our community – our students in particular – will carry us forward to a better, more just world. As director of the Watson Institute, I am committed to leading and supporting this effort.