To the Case Western Reserve Community:
The death of George Floyd seemed to awaken scores of people to the systemic racism that insidiously invades every segment of our society. Although Black communities have been marching, advocating and pleading with America to wake up to the injustices routinely visited upon them and other communities of color, their cries for equity had led to few substantive changes for law enforcement.
But the images of George Floyd struggling to breathe under the knee of an unapologetic police officer sparked a new level of awareness—and outrage. This time the protests spread to cities across the country, drawing people of all races and continuing for weeks. More and more people leaned into difficult conversations about race and white supremacy. Others who had vigorously condemned Colin Kaepernick were now embracing his ideals.
Many of us believed that this newfound awareness would translate into more critical thought about police brutality, equity and justice. But then we saw a Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer shoot Jacob Blake shot in the back seven times in front of his small children. Two days later white teenager Kyle Rittenhouse came to a protest of Blake’s shooting, visibly armed with a semi-automatic weapon. He shot three people, killing two of them, and Kenosha police allowed him to simply return home to Illinois.
The next day NBA players walked out of the playoffs and refused to play. WNBA players, tennis stars and other high-profile figures have also taken various stands in protest. Now some in higher education have led a call for a ‘scholar strike’ this week, while others are holding teach-ins and searching for additional ways to give voice to our opposition to the culture of oppression, abuse and racism across this country.
Although Case Western Reserve formally embraced inclusive excellence more than a decade before the death of George Floyd, we knew we needed to join the rest of America in listening intently to our community about their lived experiences and challenges and obstacles they faced in our institution. Back in June we held a Day of Dialogue to start the conversation. In the months since we have worked to begin to respond to the many concerns we have heard expressed.
Later this week we will begin to share some of the outcomes of those conversations, and on Sept. 17 we will hold a second Day of Dialogue. Before we even begin, however, we want to be clear that these efforts mark only the beginning of our work. Like democracy, equity, justice and equality require our continuous and perpetual attention.
Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity