May 30, 2020

Dear community members,

By now you have witnessed the videos of the death of George Floyd. We watched Mr. Floyd handcuffed, prone and pinned by a Minneapolis police officer’s knee on his neck. In his final moments, we hear him pleading for his life, calling out that he could not breathe. This all comes in the wake of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, an unarmed 25-year-old Black man who was shot while jogging in a Georgia suburb and Breonna Taylor on March 13, an unarmed 26-year-old Black woman shot by police in her apartment. George Floyd’s murder comes in the same week of the 9th anniversary of the death of Corey Jackson on May 20, 2011, an unarmed 34-year-old Black Genevan who was shot by a Geneva Police Officer.

On behalf of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, I am writing to express not only our deep sadness, but also our solidarity with families and communities who work against the vileness and violence of institutional racism. We see you, and we bear witness to the visceral anguish around the nation, and what the Mayor of Minneapolis recently described as “the truth Black communities have lived.” This is a truth that is four American centuries in the making.

We call upon our community of scholars, educators and leaders to direct our outrage and anger into the vital and ongoing work of confronting racism and working towards true community. Faculty, staff and students do this work through justice-minded service learning initiatives, in courses that remap our view of the world, and local partnerships that resource and empower regional organizations. We also do this work through student organizing and scholarship that centers marginalized realities. In these extraordinary times, we must forward the best of what a liberal arts education can activate: a critical, ethical and broadminded approach to the deepest social problems that confront our world.

While it pains me for this to be the office’s first correspondence to the community, I am hopeful about the shared work that awaits us. In the weeks ahead, we will put forth plans to support faculty, staff and students to create, revive or redouble collective efforts towards equity and inclusion. In the mean time I invite you to reach out to connect, reflect and share ideas and priorities or for resources to address this moment.

A perplexing feature of institutional violence is that it is often perpetrated under a banner of good intentions. This moment offers all of us an opportunity to talk intently with each other and reflect honestly on our positions of privilege or marginalization and our relationship with the wider Geneva community.

In the years since the killing of Corey Jackson, his father and brother have memorialized his life and death with words that matter for us here and now: “we have work to do.”

With love and solidarity,

Khuram Hussain, PhD
Associate Professor of Education
VP for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion