Message from EWC President Vuylsteke on Racial Justice

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A Message from the President of the East-West Center

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his 1964 speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, said: “I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the “oughtness” that forever confronts him.” The events during the past two weeks have been a painful reminder that Dr. King’s dream of racial equality in America is far from being achieved.

Dr. King said he was convinced that the tortuous road over which millions of Black Americans were traveling to find a sense of dignity would eventually widen into a “superhighway of justice.” We have so far yet to travel. Condemnation of racism has not been sufficient to eradicate it.

Recent events in the United States have galvanized people around the world to call for true racial justice everywhere. We hope this enthusiasm for justice will endure and that we are witnessing a tipping point in the centuries-long battle for true equality for African-Americans – and that people everywhere will commit to rooting out racism and injustice in all its forms.

If this is to happen, individuals and institutions need to assess their failings and then recommit to bringing about equitable and just societies for all.

For six decades, the East-West Center has focused on promoting better relations and understanding between the United States and nations of Asia and the Pacific. It has been guided by values that honor diversity and inclusion, racial equality and justice. We are now being vividly reminded of the extent to which severe inequities continue to exist, and the challenges we face to overcome them.

I hope this moment is a national and global inflection point. It is a time for us to rededicate ourselves to vigorously address global issues of inequality, racism, and social injustice. As Dr. King said in a letter from Birmingham jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Now we must act.

Richard R. Vuylsteke,
President, East-West Center