Statement by Dean James Martin II on the Buffalo Shootings

"Words like "freedom," "justice," "democracy" are not common concepts; on the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous and, above all, individual effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply."

James Baldwin

To our Swanson School Community,

Racism is not genetic. White supremacy is not inherited. Both are diseases that must be excised from society if we as a nation are to survive, let alone evolve. It must be We the American People.

I am outraged – but not necessarily surprised – at this past weekend’s massacre in Buffalo that stole the lives of ten innocents, and I know you share in these raw emotions. While our dialogues have advocated for understanding, tolerance, and acceptance, our voices are undercut by the beliefs – whether underground, on the internet, or broadcast in plain sight – that the "other" is to be feared, that respect is a weakness, and that outward violence is preferred to honest introspection.

The prolific writer James Baldwin once noted, "I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain." We all have our demons; to excise them requires first the acknowledgement that we are each no better than the next human, regardless of race, religion, sexuality, or ancestry. We each came into this world with nothing and we will each leave this world with nothing. We have only a short time to make an impact. Life is but a vapor in the eye of eternity.

We need to do a better job at calling out hate and racism for what it is and where it is, rather than hoping it will disappear. As we have seen, hate never truly disappears – it sometimes hides in wait until it finds the opportunity to strike.

Let us recommit ourselves as a community to the Pitt Promise and dedicate ourselves to making the change we want to see. Our purpose here is to improve lives and advance society – what else is worth us working toward?

James R. Martin II
U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering


If you are a student in need of support, contact the University Counseling Center Drop-In Services at 412-648-7930 Monday-Friday, between 9am-4pm. For non-emergent concerns, but needing emotional support, you can contact the WarmLine (Peer Support), 10am-Midnight daily, at 1-866-661-WARM (9276). Faculty and professional staff are encouraged to contact Life Solutions at 1-866-647-3432.


(Photo: Kent Nishimura - Getty Images)