Dear Union College Community,
On May 25, 2020, Derek Chauvin put his knee on the neck of a handcuffed George Floyd, and despite desperate pleas from Floyd and horrified onlookers, he applied deadly force for more than nine minutes. Earlier today 12 Minnesotans performed their civic duty and declared officially what was obvious to so many who were at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue that day, or who watched seventeen-year-old Darnella Frazier’s courageous and awful video. Derek Chauvin chose to murder George Floyd brazenly, publicly, and with contempt for the very people he swore to serve and protect. Justice has been served.
Today’s verdict is an important salve to those who would have otherwise become even more disillusioned about America’s ability to live up to its ideals. It suggests that justice for all is possible.
As powerful as the verdict was, it will not restore the lost years of George Floyd’s life. It will not ensure that equal justice will mark our future more than it has our recent and distant pasts. It will not cause parents of color to stop having “the talk.” As we have seen in Chicago, in Brooklyn Center, and in too many places and too many videos since last May, it does not mean that George Floyd’s murder will bring this shameful and enduring part of our national story to an end.
My hope for our country and our College is that the moral outrage that was ignited by Darnella Frazier’s video will continue to burn bright, despite today’s verdict. At Union, we have launched a Race, Power, and Privilege initiative; appointed a diverse team of chief diversity officers; created a campus-wide diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) committee; established goals that are achievable and impactful; and published DEI data that reflects progress and opportunities.
As a residential community, we are committed to ensuring that: (1) our students, faculty, and staff are selected on merit, not with bias; (2) all members of the Union community feel welcome here; and (3) Union is a place where all can achieve to their full potential. As an academic institution, we are committed to generating knowledge that will inform DEI debates and policies, and ensuring that every student who graduates from Union develops the wisdom, empathy, and courage to both understand the magnitude and nuances of ongoing DEI challenges, and be an agent of positive social change, in ways large and small.
I ask that you continue to engage in difficult and constructive conversations with us and with one another, and to pursue informed action. As individuals and as a College, our commitment must be to ensuring that, to paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., today’s verdict marks a sustained bending of the arc of the moral universe towards justice. We cannot allow today to be a temporary deviation from an all-too-familiar pattern.
Sous les lois de Minerve nous devenons tous frères et soeurs
David R. Harris