By Van Williams – Black History Month reflections and a request of the University of California technology community by University of California Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Van Williams.
To the UC Tech Community:
As we celebrate Black History Month 2023, I am reminded about what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. King wanted to remind us of “the fierce urgency of now” and that “this is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” These words are incredibly important because we live in a world that is changing faster and faster because of technology, digital and data. They are important because we live in a world that is increasingly being united and simultaneously divided using the tools of technology, digital and data. They are important because of the recognition that those of us steeped in the excess of technology knowledge and know how have an increasingly urgent responsibility to participate to ensure that we serve as forces for unity more than for division.
These words have never resounded louder for our community than during the last several years. They should motivate us all to act in unity, to stand up for racial justice, and to stand against violence and hatred. However, it has seemed to me that the “fierce urgency of now” has been embraced by those who would engage in violence, seek division and reinforce racial injustice. And worse, they have used our tools of technology, digital and data to achieve their goals. As community, we have to reclaim the “fierce urgency of now” and bring the strength of our values with the knowledge of our tools to become stronger forces for good. We also have to continue to educate others to do the same.
Dr. King’s words have never resounded louder for me personally than now. I have been helping my children navigate a world where race still matters, where misogyny, xenophobia, nationalism and populism are increasingly normalized and where calls for unity, justice and education are increasingly demonized.
When education itself is under attack, ignorance reigns. And when ignorance reigns, we know that there are very few possibilities for peace or love.
The University of California (UC) is one of the preeminent forces, a crucible even, for social justice in the world. I believe that technology has become the glue that unifies UC and amplifies its impact. In celebration of Black History Month, I have an ask for our UC Tech community. It is an ask of all my fellow unifiers:
Dr. King wrote, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend” and that “unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”
I plan to put those words to the test this year and invite you to join me.
Vice President of IT and Chief Information Officer
University of California