The outpouring of rage and protest against racial injustice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers has affected Trinity students, faculty and staff in many ways. Below are some of their responses so far, in photos and videos and letters My blog on Black Lives Matter follows the student contributions to this blog, and I welcome more as they come in (send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org for posting here)… I also wrote this email to our campus community on Sunday: Racism, Rage, Response for our City and Nation
Dean Peggy Lewis ’77 had this terrific video on NBC4 talking about how to discuss race with families:
Director of Conferences Annette Coram and her son Collyn joined Mayor Bowser and others painting the “Black Lives Matter” mural at 16th and H:
Sophomore Aalayah Eastmond is an organizer of a new group called Concerned Citizens, and she explains the peaceful protest purpose of the group in this article for Yahoo News. See also this WUSA-TV9 interview with Aalayah as she marched on June 4.
Trinity Junior Breonna Bailey made this video to express her feelings about racism’s impact on society and Black Lives Matter:
Director of Health Services Dr. Jacqueline Newsome-Williams sent photos of the program for George Floyd’s funeral service in North Carolina where her childhood pastor officiated:
Keisha Hewitt, who just graduated with her degree in Early Childhood Education, shared this heartbreaking letter that she wrote to her sons last weekend:
SPS Sophomore Tiffanie Edwards attended some of the peaceful protests over the weekend and sent these photos (she’s in the teal shirt):
Junior Maria Warner was at one of the peaceful protests and shared these photos:
That last picture pretty much says it all about the situation we find ourselves in as a society and nation. We can pray that the police will stand down, pick up the roses and join with everyone working so hard to find solutions right now.
Below is my blog on the death of George Floyd, the DC protests and Black Lives Matter:
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It’s long past time for Americans to stand up and be counted. Which side of the arc of the moral universe do you stand on? Are you on the side that claims justice as a private good available to those who can afford it, or a perk of privilege reserved for people of a certain skin color or ethnicity, or a show of power reinforced at the end of a gun? Or do you stand for the true moral meaning of justice as what we owe in equal measure to all of our fellow human beings because of the gift of life that God has given to each one of us?
Outrage and pain course across America today, sparked by yet another murder of a Black man by a police officer. The name of George Floyd now joins the long and incomprehensibly sorrowful litany of names: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, so many others documented in this NPR story. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and all who are suffering so much pain and sorrow. But such expressions are meaningless if we do not put the power of our advocacy, our vote, our voice into the demands for permanent change.
If we stand for justice, we must say without hesitation: Black Lives Matter!
America is in flames once again because of the lawless, murderous misconduct of too many police officers assaulting and killing African Americans in numbers that are shocking. A Washington Post story documents the disproportionate impact of police shootings on Black persons:
“Who will police the police” is one of the oldest political and philosophical questions. Plato had an ideal in mind when he imbued the Philosopher King with the wisdom of knowledge and perspective sufficient to govern the Republic. But America has deeply flawed human beings in charge, and at present, a leader that seems remarkably ignorant of any study in philosophy, sociology, psychology, politics or fundamental moral conduct. Yes, there are many forces at work with long roots in this nation’s racial tragedy, and some truly nefarious agents of disruption, chaos and exploitation are working hard to keep the chaos going since chaos is a political tool for authoritarian control.
But one person above all others is responsible for the climate that has sparked our latest agony.
The current president of the United States has spent years encouraging the climate of white supremacy and police brutality that undergird the latest crisis. His crude and brutal language — “thugs,” “when looting starts, the shooting starts” — telegraphs a mindset that is aggressively authoritarian, clearly racist in its meaning, disinterested in the underlying causes of protests and violence, insensitive to the suffering and rage of people who suffer the poverty, police brutality and marginalization of centuries of racial oppression. The policies this administration has implemented toward immigrants, mostly Black and Brown people, enshrine a level of contempt and hostility toward non-white people that should shock the conscience of every sentient person. Sadly, however, the president’s “base” seems filled with individuals who are easily duped into the belief that his strong-man tactics and disgraceful rhetoric of contempt are indicia of leadership. They are not.
A president who has read any history would know that racism is America’s Original Sin; that the evil of 1619, the year that white people first brought slaves to American shores, continues to have a profound impact on our society today. The Founders of this nation knew full well that slavery was an amoral abomination, but their romance with the almighty dollar meant that the people revered as American heroes — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, so many others — made a pact with evil, refusing to abolish slavery even though they thought about it, and making a cynical compromise with the southern states to get them to join the union by counting three fifths of the slave population for apportionment purposes.
A president with any moral sensibility would know that egregious acts of racial violence by the police demand swift and certain condemnation and immediate action to punish those responsible for the brutality.
A president with any leadership ability would have the wisdom and rhetorical capacity to speak with empathy to the nation, the ability to embody the sorrow and rage that others express, the capacity to persuade people that violence is not an effective response to violence, the credibility to get those who are enraged to follow him to a place a greater safety and harmony where dialogue that leads to healing and peace can occur.
The current president has no such capacity. He seems to have no advisors who can help him at least convey some semblance of understanding of the profound anger and rage in the body politic of the nation. He seems, at best, unaware of the grave danger of further social fragmentation and ongoing violence.
If the current president had read any political philosophy, he would be familiar with John Locke’s famous Second Treatise On Government in which the political philosopher described the conditions for political revolution:
“…revolutions happen not upon every little mismanagement in public affairs. Great mistakes in the ruling part, many wrong and inconvenient laws, and all the slips of human frailty will be borne by the people without mutiny or murmur. But if a long train of abuses, prevarications, and artifices, all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people, and they cannot but feel what they lie under, and see whither they are going, it is not to be wondered that they should then rouse themselves, and endeavor to put the rule into such hands which may secure to them the end for which government was at first erected..”
Some people are worried that we are experiencing a Second Civil War. Let’s hope not. Instead, perhaps the best we can work to achieve is a Second American Revolution to rebuild our nation on the right side of the arc of the moral universe, closer to the ideal of justice for all. We must start by making sure that this nation installs new leadership with the moral capacity to bend the arc of the moral universe more swiftly and surely toward the justice we seek.
Some things I’ve written about racism previously:
How Higher Education Can Atone for Its Long History of Racism
Chronicle of Higher Education, July 2019
Justice Denied in Ferguson, MO, September 2014
Charlottesville: American Tragedy Redux, August 2017
Racism and Catholic Imperatives, November 2017
Saying the Unspeakable, January 2018
Raging Against the Dying Light, August 2019