Dear Members of the Teachers College Community,
Today’s conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — guilty on on two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter — in the videotaped killing of George Floyd in broad daylight last May 25 will not lessen the pain, anguish, anger and trauma felt by Mr. Floyd’s loved ones and the nation. But in a country where few police officers are ever even charged with murder or manslaughter in the killing of unarmed Black people, the verdict in the Chauvin murder trial, which featured rare testimony by high-ranking police officers for the prosecution, potentially represents forward movement in the fight for social justice.
It would be premature to declare that justice has been served in this trial until sentencing is handed down. And even a just outcome to the trial will not represent a victory over centuries of structural racial injustice, bias, and discrimination. Nor will it change the grim reality of intimidation, oppression and violence that unarmed Black people disproportionately endure at the hands of police — as last week’s fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, reminded us.
The conviction of Derek Chauvin does, however, strike a blow against the edifice of white supremacy and should further galvanize our collective resolve to dismantle systemic racism in our country.
The question for us at Teachers College continues to be: What can we do to dismantle the structures of racism embedded in our society, and rise to meet the call for racial justice and healing?
We will continue to take a harder look into the mirror, and apply an antiracist and pro-diversity, equity and inclusion lens not just to our teaching, research, hiring, and organizational practices, but also to ourselves. Furthering diversity, equity, inclusion and justice is everyone’s responsibility. And that begins by recognizing and interrupting habits of behavior that unwittingly demean others and encourage the marginalization of people of color.
Ultimately, we must be willing to challenge one another, and even embrace uncomfortable conversations, changes or challenges as indispensable learning opportunities. Fifty-three years after the President’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, known to most of us as the Kerner Commission, identified systemic racism as the root both of brutal policing against Black people and lack of economic and educational opportunity for Black people, the structures of racism remain in place. If we are going to properly honor the lives and memories of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Daunte Wright, and so many other unarmed Black Americans who have died at the hands of police, including Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, Samuel DuBose, Laquan McDonald, Alton Sterling, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice, then each of us must do our part to dismantle the edifice of racism pillar by pillar, brick by brick.
Confronting structural racism cannot be an add-on to our work. Rather, it must be intentional, strategic, and comprehensive in our daily tasks and actions.
That is why we are doubling down on reviewing and assessing the College’s policies, practices, and culture from stem to stern. For example, we are committed to:
- Ensuring students can productively engage in difficult conversations in the classroom with faculty who in turn are equipped with facilitating these dialogues;
- Preparing committed graduates to illuminate and to dismantle systemic disparities in their professional settings and through their work;
- Establishing a virtual and in-person work environment where staff feel safe to voice their experiences and are treated with respect as valued members of the community; and
- Supporting faculty in their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion work, and enlisting their voices and expertise both in dismantling systemic racism at all levels of our academic programs and in creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment.
At the same time, it is also up to each of us to prioritize and incorporate diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice into our daily tasks and actions.
We are bound and determined to accelerate and expand this work. As long as we proceed in good faith and remain open to help each other learn and grow, we will succeed.
President, Teachers College
Provost and Dean of the College