Mr. George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer is an image that few of us will ever forget. Mr. Floyd’s death comes after a string of high-profile killings of Black Americans over the past few months – we remember here Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and others whose names we do not know. Sadly, the response of the leader of this nation was to fire tear-gas into a crowd of peaceful protesters, threaten to bring military power against its citizens and pose in front of a house of worship with a bible.
Remembering and shaking our heads in disgust, however, is not sufficient. We, especially at this institution founded on the principles of justice and equality, are bound by the responsibility to act to ensure social change. Despite feeling frustrated, angry – and overwhelmed by the disproportionate manner in which the pandemic has impacted people of color – we must push forward and focus on effecting change.
That change, however, cannot come in the form of violence. While Dr. Martin Luther King once famously observed that “a riot is the language of the unheard,” it is what follows that quote that is most telling:
“And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met.  And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality and humanity.”
Peaceful protest, exhorting our leaders to change and voting to ensure that change occurs are the least we can do. Reminding our fellow citizens that justice, equality and humanity are never achieved through fire-bombs, guns or hate is also our responsibility. Pointing to images of NYPD officers kneeling in solidarity with protesters serves to remind others that we are not enemies but we are all the victims of the few who condone the mistreatment of our fellow citizens while being concerned about tranquility and the status quo.
Let us raise our voices against injustice. Let us seek to find those means, whether through peaceful protest or the ballot box, to ensure the change we need. Whether you point a light to the sky at 9:00 PM every evening, march against injustice, organize a voting drive or volunteer in your community to change things for the better, inspire those around you to build a better future not to merely destroy the present.