We are heartbroken by the video of four Minneapolis Police Department officers apprehending George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man, on May 25. One officer knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as he lay on the ground, hands cuffed behind his back, pleading to be allowed to breathe. Mr. Floyd subsequently died. The four police officers have had their employment terminated, and the officer who knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Local and federal authorities have pledged a full investigation.
Mr. Floyd’s death follows the fatal shooting of Ahmad Arbery, a 25-year-old unarmed Black man out for a run, on February 23 in Satilla Shores, Georgia. Almost three months later, a white father and son in Georgia were charged with murder and aggravated assault.
We know that concern about the decimation of the African American community by acts of police brutality and gunfire has been an ugly reality in the United States of America for more than 150 years, and that the advent of smartphones and social media platforms has made these tragedies more visible. We do not have the words to express the turmoil of emotions we feel, but as a community, we will not turn away.
Not turning away means we acknowledge that:
- as a community, we know the justified fear and dread that our Black students, faculty, and staff experience in their interactions with police officers,
this study shows that one in 1,000 Black men and boys can expect to die at the hands of police, which is 2.5 times more than white men and boys,
- police violence is one of the top ten leading causes of death among Black men and boys in America,
- the harm of police violence radiates beyond the direct victims, and has toxic effects on communities, and
- we have an institutional duty to our Black students, faculty, and staff to make Gallaudet a safe haven for them where they can drop that crushing burden of fear and dread, lower their protective shields, and perform to their full potential.
Gallaudet University President Roberta J. Cordano says, “The deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery remind us of the importance of our work as a community to be part of our nation’s healing and path forward. We at Gallaudet affirm that we will move forward with this work to assure that we are leaders in this change, supporting each other in the fight for social justice, and affirming the value of each human being. Our hearts go out to the families of George Floyd and the thousands of Black men and boys who have fallen victim to police violence.”
Gallaudet University’s Division of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion will continue to provide sustained and intentional interventions such as mindful conversations and implicit bias training and contribute to the building of restorative justice structures to advance our journey towards creating an environment that nurtures the well-being , safety, and success of all community members.
We call upon all members of our community to join us in the unrelenting fight against this ugly scourge on humanity. Racism and violence have no place in any society.
Dr. Elavie Ndura
Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion