President’s speeches, letters, and articles
Subject: The conviction of Derek Chauvin
April 20, 2021
Dear students, faculty, and staff,
Today, Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty on all counts for the murder of George Floyd. While this verdict sends a clear message, it cannot bring back George Floyd. We cannot call it justice when police officers are so rarely held accountable for the killings of Black and Brown people.
As columnist Charles Blow recently wrote in the New York Times, “The news of these killings is not that they are interruptions of the norm, but a manifestation of the norm.” In the United States and elsewhere, routine interactions between police officers and members of Black and Brown communities frequently end in death. There is no sentence that can bring justice to these victims, their families, and their communities.
In response to the killing of George Floyd, we saw many white people demanding change and standing in solidarity with the Black community, and this must continue. Recently, the NPR podcast THROUGHLINE featured Khalil Gibran Muhammad, professor of history, race, and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and author of The Condemnation of Blackness. Muhammad explains the origins of policing in the United States and how those origins put violent control of Black Americans at the heart of the system. At the end of the episode, he poses an essential question: “Do white people in America still want the police to protect their interests over the rights, dignity, and lives of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian populations in this country?”
Racism permeates every aspect of United States society. It is on display in all of our institutional systems: justice, voting, health care, public works, and education. Here at Reed, I recognize that I hold a privileged position and have the ability and duty to effect change within the college. I take that responsibility seriously.
While Reed has made progress in the past few years to meet goals related to racial equity and inclusion, I acknowledge that we have a great deal of work to do. On May 25, the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, Mary James, Dean for Institutional Diversity & A.A. Knowlton Professor of Physics, and I will share an update on diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism work at Reed. It is important to me that we recognize how George Floyd has changed the world and how Reed is changing to become a more inclusive and equitable community. Additionally, Mary will soon share her reflections on the verdict as well as information about relevant resources and community gatherings.
I approach this time with empathy and solidarity for members of Reed’s marginalized communities. I do not know what it is like to stand in all of your shoes, but I want you to know that you do not stand alone.
With hope for continued progress,