A Message from Wasserman Dean Christina Christie
Today, May 25th marks one year since the murder of George Floyd—a murder committed, no less, by those who were entrusted to serve and protect. Let us take a moment and reflect on this horrific event and our response to it.
Immediately after George Floyd’s beating, we witnessed worldwide outrage and demonstrations calling for justice. Many of these protests took place during the height of the COVID epidemic, defying lockdowns. Millions of people, seemingly from all walks of life, joined hands and took to the streets; twenty-six million is the figure sometimes quoted. In unison and in force, they called for change.
For some weeks after, it seemed perhaps we had turned a corner—mass consciousness had finally been raised regarding deep-seated racism in our communities and in the nation. Nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds shook us to the core. We were sure positive change would soon follow. This time it had worldwide momentum.
One year later, what part of this energy and consciousness continues? Some statues have been taken down. Some police reforms are in process. Some schools have changed names and some may rethink history lessons. Colleges may include more courses highlighting social injustices. There is a push for a more diverse faculty and leadership. Black Lives Matter has a greater voice.
But despite the mass outrage, we have continued to witness beatings and shootings at the hands of police. Hate speech and hate crimes are only on the rise. Our nation seems more divided than it has ever been. Denials of racism have increased and major policy reforms seem to have lost steam. All of this suggests that racism is deeply, deeply entrenched—in institutions, in practices, in policies, and most disturbingly, in the recesses of our own minds—which, tragically, blurs our vision and taints our attitudes beyond our conscious awareness.
Real and lasting change will require resolute steadfastness, continuous focus and concerted efforts—lest we lose the thirst and the fire for greater justice ignited by the cry “I can’t breathe”—a cry which, not too long ago, reverberated in our hearts and the world over. True change will require unearthing root causes, investing in communities, building infrastructure, enlightening minds, opening hearts and molding character. It will require transformation in the real sense of the word.
As educators, I believe we have a special and wide-ranging responsibility in effecting this transformation in schools and beyond. As W.E.B. Du Bois so perceptively observed, “Education is that whole system of human training within and without the school house wall, which molds and develops men.” What is required of us is nothing less than the training of the whole system and with a determination that outlasts initial energy and enthusiasm.
It was also Du Bois who said, “What a world this will be when human possibilities are freed, when we discovereach other, when the stranger is no longer . . . the certain inferior.” Today is a day for reflection but also perhaps a day of a recommitment to rigorous and determined efforts to achieve what is possible.