Dear WashU Family,
May 25, 2020 was Memorial Day. A day that is supposed to be one of reflection for all those who have died in service to our country, it is an endless list of those who have given their lives for the freedom of their fellow citizens and generations to come. However, in the midst of a global health pandemic, we also celebrated our first responders and those who were putting their lives on the line fighting for our freedom to breathe. On this date, we soon learned that George Floyd would be denied the freedom to breathe, with the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on his neck for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds, being murdered on that street and igniting a generation.
So, on May 25, 2021, we recognize another Memorial Day in remembrance of an endless list of Black citizens who have died because their freedoms have been denied by white supremacy, which has been the longest living virus attacking all of our rights to be free. To honor Black lives, today must be a new day, a day for us to breathe, breathe because we can, breathe because we are free to, breathe because we must in order to live. This is a moment for all of us to use the breaths we have been given as an opportunity to live for those names we remember today.
Our generation will be defined by how we responded to the awakening around race that unveiled the deadly reality of anti-Blackness. What Ahmaud, Breonna, and George’s lynchings revealed as discovery for many in our society was already known intimately by communities of color. Most importantly, the depths of racism had silently continued to seep into the crevices of our society, poisoning how we think, learn, understand and engage with each other. In our willful ignorance, racism thrived and masked itself in the name of the law, safety, fairness and fear – completely distorting a reality of inequity by design.
We have spent much of the last year writing and speaking on the impact of a system that has continued to fail communities of color, the destructive nature of white supremacy that continues to attack our democracy, and various forms of racism that undermine humanity. So it will be us who will deconstruct systemic racism, it must be us and it must be now. We have seen our community march in the streets and take action on our campus to shift policy, raise awareness, create more equitable resources, voice and amplify minoritized experiences. We have much more work to realize that which we aspire for our community, on campus, in St. Louis and everywhere we call home. This has been our commitment to the names and stories of the lives lost to racism, this has been our commitment to each other.
In response to all that we have witnessed, we will unapologetically support equity for Black Lives. Until justice is served we will march for Black Lives. Until institutional racism is dismantled we will educate for Black Lives. Until anti-Blackness is unrooted, we will remember today, we will remember Black Lives Matter.
Mark Kamimura-Jiménez, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs
Dean of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion
Aeryel Williams, Ph.D.
Training and Education Specialist, Center for Diversity and Inclusion