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A Message to Our Students

This weekend, millions of people in the US and around the world took to the streets to express disgust, anger, and grief over unchecked police violence against Black and Brown people in this country. The killing last week of George Floyd in broad daylight, brought many to a breaking point: How many more Black people need to be tortured to death on camera by law enforcement? When does this particularly American form of intimidation and brutality come to an end?

Like many of you, I am horrified by what I've witnessed in the past week. In many of the peaceful public gatherings, militarized law enforcement can been seen antagonizing and assaulting protesters and bystanders. Now, our largest cities have announced strict curfews likely to bring even more people into negative interactions with police. I am particularly concerned that this is happening against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has laid bare what many already knew: The racist harms visited upon Black and Latinx communities in this country are insidious and resilient. As a legal historian, I know well that freedoms are hard-fought, and yet even I am wondering today "How much fight will it take?"

The Graduate School shares the sentiments expressed by Chancellor Cantor that we need you -- this community of learners from all over the US and the world -- to survive and thrive. As protests continue, as rhetoric sharpens, and as business-as-usual is no longer an option, it is normal to experience frustration and frankly, fear. The Graduate School is open and available to assist with challenges you may be experiencing. The university's Counseling Center is also open, and appointments are available in case it would help to talk to someone right away. The men, women, and children who have suffered and died at the hands of law enforcement and lawless vigilantes comprise a list too long to be ignored, too long to "move past". Yet, we honor them by surviving another day to fight and demand more from those who would deny us.

We all have a role to play in denouncing hate, racism, and anti-Blackness, and examining our own assumptions and beliefs. In the end, we must choose to be a part of efforts to dismantle systemic barriers to equity and opportunity. The Graduate School remains committed to examining the role that it must play both within and outside the university's walls in contributing to efforts to eradicate discrimination and racism in higher education, government, nonprofits, and industry. We are also working now on additional steps that the Graduate School can take to create a more diverse and inclusive graduate student body.

On Thursday at noon, I will be hosting a virtual check-in for those who may wish to talk more about all that has happened and a path forward. The link to the gathering is here.

In our interactions with each other, and with the world, we can work as individuals and as a collective to stand for justice and equity. While we do, I wish you all safety and health as we navigate these waters together.


Taja-Nia Henderson


[📸: AJ Colores on Unsplash]



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