At an event of Martin Luther King, Jr. Week last evening, the following quote of Dr. King appeared: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This is a true statement, I believe. Injustice is certainly the enemy of justice; it is also the enemy of peace, community, equality, and even sustained prosperity.
There is another way to look at this, however, which is (I think) fully consistent with the leadership provided by Dr. King. It is equally true, I think, that justice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere. Acts of injustice may be deflected or defeated by acting justly. Institutions and societies that perpetuate or promote injustice cannot permanently withstand the comparison to institutions and societies that embody a commitment to justice. In essence, darkness cannot withstand the light, and light anywhere, if replicated, has the potential to dispel darkness everywhere.
Consequently, in addition to combating injustice, which we must, we need to focus on building more just institutions and societies. And that is a priority for the University of Rhode Island, as reflected in our commitment to building a diverse community here that is devoted to equity. “Equity” is an interesting word. Its definition in the American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd Edition (the one we have on hand in the Office of the President) is “the state, quality, or ideal of being just, impartial, and fair”. I believe that articulating this as a priority for our university, and every step we take towards achieving that goal, can, in some small way, contribute to building a more just society in America and a world where justice is the norm.