As we look back on a challenging year, I’ve been reflecting on recent events in the national spotlight that deserve our attention at MMC, where we have been working to create an anti-racist culture. These already challenging times have been punctuated by the unfortunate and inescapable presence of racism in its various forms in our country. Each year of the last decade has regrettably been marked with the murder of a Black life at the hands of the authorities or by those with presumed authority, and this year has unfortunately been no different. While the recent traumatic deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have been intensely brought to our national attention, they also serve as tragic reminders that such egregious disregard for Black lives is not at all uncommon in America. George Floyd’s last words—“I can’t breathe”—were the same last words of Eric Garner in 2015, and they also serve as a symbolic representation of the ways this global pandemic has disproportionally affected and killed Black communities.
Additionally, the day before George Floyd’s murder, we witnessed a disturbing incident of false reporting centered on race when Christian Cooper, a Black birdwatcher in Central Park, was falsely accused of threatening a white woman, who reported him to the police. History has demonstrated all too well how Christian Cooper’s fate could easily have followed that of the Scottsboro Boys, Emmet Till, The Central Park 5, and numerous other Black men and women unjustly accused of violence.
Often the response when something of this frequency and magnitude occurs is a call to action: “We need to do something!” I write to you today not as someone with answers or a strategy to end this pattern, but rather as a Black woman who is filled with grief and wants to acknowledge that this sentiment may be shared by others in our community. Those of you who are grieving are not doing so alone. In particular, I extend acknowledgement and support to MMC’s Black students, faculty, and staff who may share my visceral pain at these incidents, experiencing the reflections of ourselves and our communities in ways that devalue our humanity. I ask you to allow yourself grace by taking a moment to grieve as needed before feeling the need to immediately jump into action.
I know that this is likely not going to be the last time I will have to reach out around this topic, and for that reason, I am further frustrated. But we will not succumb to the frustration. I hope that our community can continue to learn about and confront racism and anti-Blackness in this moment. This Anti-Racism resource guide is a good start.
Please be gentle with yourselves and with one another during this time. Our small but mighty MMC community can support one another through this.
Chief Diversity Officer and Title IX Coordinator