|This message was originally posted from the office of the President of UW. It was sent to all members of the University of Washington’s Seattle campus.|
Dear UW Community,
Today our community — like communities across the country and the world — is reacting to the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Floyd’s death sparked a renewed urgency to our country’s needed reckoning with racism and inequity. During the trial, we witnessed cracks in what’s been called the blue wall of silence, and today Floyd’s murderer was held accountable and convicted on all three of the charges he faced.
No verdict can bring George Floyd back to his loved ones or erase the horrific nature of his death, witnessed by millions, over the course of nine agonizing minutes. And no single verdict will solve the systemic and deep-seated racism that seeks to deny the humanity of Black and brown people with numbing regularity.
This trial itself magnified and illuminated events that are unquestionably an ongoing source of trauma for many members of our community, and should be painful and concerning to us all. Even a just verdict does not wipe away all of the grief and exhaustion, particularly for our Black friends, family, and colleagues as well as BIPOC people more broadly. If you need support, the University has resources available as well as spaces and opportunities to heal and be together. Please seek out the support and community that is right for you — this is a good time to be with others whom you care about and who care about you. I also ask our entire community to be understanding that while this is a moment that may deliver a measure of relief, these remain difficult times, and there is much work ahead, so we should be giving each other extra grace and flexibility where possible.
The hard work of creating a more just society — and of developing more humane systems for enforcing public safety and reforming our criminal justice system — must continue. It requires collective action to fix what is broken. The brokenness does not begin — or end — with police. It extends to the laws and systems that increase the number of interactions BIPOC communities have with police — interactions that too often turn deadly — to the legal fines that put people in perpetual debt, to the poverty and discrimination that have decimated opportunities for generations, and more.
Our work must address this systemic network of practices in order to build healthy communities, economic and educational opportunities, and equity in all facets of life. This must include how the legal system, health care providers, financial institutions, schools, including higher education, and commerce treat and interact with people of color. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community, “There is nothing to keep us from remolding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.” Equality and justice are not piecemeal — they can only be the product of comprehensive and systemic reform, and the work of that reform is ours to move forward.
We can all take action to achieve this transformation. Here in Washington, bills are moving through the legislature to increase police accountability, including legislation to curb certain policing tactics and no-knock warrants, require independent review of situations resulting in use of deadly force, as well as make it easier for police to intervene when their colleagues abuse their power. We can take part in efforts, including those led by our own faculty, to root out injustice and reform systems that are stacked against Black and brown people and communities. And we must commit to doing the work within our own campus community to ensure we live up to the ideals and values we champion.
However you are feeling in the wake of this trial, please remember to practice the self-care you need, to care for each other, and reach out if you need support. Let us remember — and through our work honor — George Floyd, as well as all the victims of racist violence. We must also pledge to keep moving forward as a community, seeking a more just and equitable world, together.
|Ana Mari Cauce|
Professor of Psychology