We are outraged and grieved by the recent murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police, and by the violence inflicted against protestors across the nation who are taking a stand to change our country’s systemic oppression of Black people. We know that police brutality is a product of racist power structures, and that this same brutality reinforces oppression. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are among the latest victims of a culture of hatred and violence towards Black bodies that has been present since the founding of this country.
We recognize that this oppression is maintained through a fundamentally unequal distribution of resources, and of exposure to harm. Across the globe, the access by Black, brown, and indigenous peoples to basic goods is curtailed by racist, colonialist systems. The same systems expose these communities to higher levels of pollution — again threatening and shortening lives. Further, we recognize that the extent to which communities can mobilize and deploy solutions is often stymied by racism, and that the nature of privilege makes it much easier for those who already occupy positions of power to be heard and acknowledged.
Systemic racism impacts every location, including ours here on California’s north coast. Our community is still reeling from the loss of David Josiah Lawson, a Black student leader, three years ago, and from the incapacity of our police and legal system to bring justice for his murder. Students and staff on our campus face very different challenges depending on the color of their skin, their language, and their heritage — including ongoing harassment on and off campus, as recent events have again made apparent. None of these events happen in isolation.
As a majority white organization in a predominantly white field, we recognize that we must be simultaneously humble and strong. We must be humble to realize the gaps in our understanding — and in our empathy. We must be proactive in developing a safe, inclusive, and collaborative work environment that supports our non-white students and staff. We must learn more inclusive ways of engaging with all people toward a just division of resources. At the same time, we must be strong in our protection of all people.
We know we have a great deal of work to do, and much to learn and unlearn.
We stand in solidarity, and in humility, to acknowledge the truths of our history, and to affirm:
Black Lives Matter.