Media Lab Public Statement on Racism

by Hildreth England

Aug. 5, 2020


To members of the Media Lab community,

As we pass the mid-way point of summer, a worldwide movement to combat racial oppression and anti-Black racism continues to gain momentum. We are inspired by this growing movement, which holds the potential for real and sustained change. I’d like to share a few thoughts on the situation and actions that the Media Lab is committed to taking. I have developed this statement with the Media Lab’s Executive Committee, faculty, and senior staff. I speak on behalf of all of us.

We abhor racial discrimination and the dehumanization of Black people or any people of color in any form: in our classrooms, workplaces, streets, and everywhere else that its insidious tentacles may reach. The horrific death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by police in Minneapolis, is just one symptom of this endemic disease. As I wrote to you last month, “Adding to the tragedy, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Sean Reed — all Black and unarmed — have also been senselessly killed in the past few weeks. The indelible image of George Floyd’s neck pinned on the ground under the knee of a white police officer has quickly come to symbolize the unresolved injustices of race that reach back to the founding of our nation.” We mourn for these lost lives, all victims who have come before, and any yet to come.

The Media Lab was created with the promise of bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. To truly fulfill that potential, we need to contribute to this change. We acknowledge that elements of racism — including implicit and explicit biases held by individuals and reinforced in policies, practices, and habits of organizations — are woven into the fabric of our culture and institutions, including the Media Lab. We recognize that we have blind spots that keep us from fully seeing these racist elements in our midst and in ourselves. We need to listen, to hear, and to learn of work that we must do — and do quickly — as individuals, as a community, and as an institution. Now is the time to change.

We commit to learning with and joining with all members of the Media Lab who are working to eradicate racism and racial oppression in ourselves, our community, and our institution. New and intensified efforts are underway to weave antiracism into our research and educational activities, to reshape our policies and procedures for admissions and promotions, and to address bias across the Media Lab (details in my previous email here and progress tracker here). We hope all members of the Media Lab will engage in this work, as we cannot and will not place the sole burden of this work on people of color in our community.

Looking to the future, our community aspires to shift more of our work to projects that address issues of equity and social justice. I look forward to seeing all of us work together to move the Media Lab closer toward the place we all want it to become.

Wishing you a healthy and regenerative summer,


Deb Roy

Executive Director,  MIT Media Lab
Professor of Media Arts & Sciences,  MIT
Director,  Laboratory for Social Machines
Co-founder & Chairman, Cortico