As our nation continues to grapple with civil unrest related to systemic racism, the death of George Floyd over a year ago and the subsequent trial of Derek Chauvin have been at the forefront of our national dialogue. Following many weeks of testimony and deliberation, today’s conviction in the murder of George Floyd is the first step towards justice and closure.
However, make no mistake, this verdict does not equate to justice. It does not equate to closure. Justice and closure only happen when what happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others never happens again. Until there is justice, then we all have a responsibility to act and create change. We must all work to eradicate all forms of structural racism and oppression.
This call to action is not only for us as a society or our university community, but for each of us as individuals. We must each ask ourselves, “what am I willing to do to dismantle structural racism in all of its forms wherever it resides?” Ironically, structural change starts with individuals working to dismantle it, at all of its multiple levels and manifestations.
The University of Michigan has instituted a number of initiatives designed to address racism in our community, including an ongoing university-wide task force to examine how we provide Public Safety at the University of Michigan. While these actions alone will not eliminate systemic racism and oppression in our society or our university community, they are important positive steps forward. Nevertheless, there is still so much more work to be done.
I have faith in our ability as a community to make that change. However, it will take all of us to do it, and it will not happen overnight. Nevertheless, it must happen.
Tonight, my feelings are not of joy or even relief. Instead, my thoughts are with George Floyd’s family and their loss. I also shed tears for the families of so many others whose murders have gone unacknowledged and unpunished, but through our relentless commitment for justice, they have not been forgotten.