Remarks at A Community Dialogue Responding to Recent Tragedies

kesterbarrowKester Barrow, Area Director for MacGregor House in Residential Life Programs, MIT
July 13, 2016

Good Afternoon All, my name is Kester Barrow and I’m the Area Director for MacGregor House in Residential Life Programs. I’m both anxious and excited to engage in today’s dialogue with you all.

At the beginning of the Spring 2016 semester, the MIT community received an announcement from President Reif sharing a tremendous scientific discovery. He shared that in collaboration with Caltech and the National Science Foundation, researchers at MIT had recorded the first direct detection of gravitational waves.

“I do not typically write to you to celebrate individual research achievements, no matter how impressive; our community produces important work all the time. But I urge you to reflect on today’s announcement because it demonstrates, on a grand scale, why and how human beings pursue deep scientific questions – and why it matters.”

Given President Reif’s words, please keep these two challenges in mind as we engage with each other throughout today’s conversation:

  • I challenge you to pursue deep social questions.
  • I challenge you to define for yourself, why does understanding these social issues matter?

Race and other socially constructed identities aren’t real. They are tools created by the oppressors to maintain the social norms at the expense of the oppressed. However, race is a lived experience for us all that has been part of the fabric of the USA since the founding of this nation. We cannot negate the harm and the pain that we’ve all experienced as a result of this oppressive system. If we truly seek to achieve growth, we must embrace the challenge of acknowledging our history and seeking change. By embracing these challenges, we accept the shame. We will be tempted to shy away from the shame. Some of us will retreat inwards and attack ourselves based upon that shame. Others will project their shame outwards and attack others.

However, please keep this in mind. As a man, it is my responsibility to process my shame around gender, if I truly seek gender equity. As a cis-gendered, heterosexual male, it is my responsibility to process my shame around sexuality, if I truly seek to support the movement for equity for the queer community.

Members of our community are already gathering in groups to support each other in the processing of shared identities and the emotions that stem from those conversations. In the coming months, it is the hope of many in this room that these spaces become a norm at MIT, where the purpose isn’t to segregate but instead to achieve insight and foster support and healing. If our aim is to truly pursue change, we must try new strategies, because the current strategies have only taken us so far.

In closing, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the weight of the violence that has plagued our society over these last few weeks. Alton Sterling, you matter! Philando Castille, you matter! The (5) officers, who died in Dallas, you matter! The 49 souls lost in Orlando, you matter!

The victims of the bombings in Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq, you matter! Members of the MIT community, who don’t feel safe, you matter!