Messages to the Community

The Office of Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Response to the Chauvin Verdict

A message from Melanie Hart, Senior Vice President of Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice and Chief Diversity Officer

On April 20, 2021, a jury delivered a guilty verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd.  On the same day that the verdict was announced, 16-year old Ma’Khia Bryant was shot and killed by police in Columbus, Ohio. This latest tragedy follows the police killing of 17-year-old Anthony Thompson, Jr. in his high school bathroom in Knoxville, Tennessee on April 12th, the police killing of 18-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop on April 11th, and the release of the police bodycam footage of the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago, Illinois. I offer these names as first and foremost affirmations of their lives, but also to offer context to the complexity of processing the Chauvin verdict. It is counterproductive to frame the verdict within the dichotomous simplicity of wins and losses. Rather, it is necessary to understand its place within the historic legacy of state violence used in the perpetuation of systemic and institutionalized racism. It is useful to contextualize the verdict within the persistent trauma of a Black community that agonized with the emotional, mental and physical stress of yet another court decision opining on the status of their rights of citizenship in the United States.

While the verdict represents a just outcome, we recognize that the absence of injustice does not equate to the presence of justice. Instead, I invite us to consider the words of the late scholar, attorney, activist, and author Derrick Bell who wrote “[i]t appears that my worst fears have been realized; we have made progress in everything, yet nothing has changed.” The work of change is incumbent upon our entire New School community. President McBride provided a roadmap for change in his message this week. He offered “[a]s a progressive higher education institution, we can catalyze change through teaching, learning, scholarship, and creative practice. We can also fulfill our crucial role by serving as a democratic commons and convener for critical public dialogues and debates.”

In support of that change, the Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice is collaborating with the University Faculty Senate, the University Staff Senate, the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Justice at Lang, Student Success, Human Resources, and various other offices, faculty and staff across the university to be a community of support for students, faculty, and staff. We also come together as faculty and staff to create access, collaborate, and lend support for student leadership in this change work as well. Collectively, over the course of the next week, we will offer a number of opportunities for our community to heal: (1) multiple processing sessions; (2) access to mental health and support services; (3) a faculty-led teach-in; (4) resources and support for engaging in these challenging conversations; and (5) a convening of the EISJ community to continue to move our institutional work forward.

Please contact the Office of Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice for more information.

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