April 21, 2021
Dear university community,
As a nation and a campus, we are all processing a multitude of thoughts after Derek Chauvin was found guilty for murdering George Floyd on a Minneapolis street last summer. I grieve for the Floyd family and hope that yesterday’s verdict provides a degree of closure for the tragic loss of life at the hands of law enforcement. His life mattered then as it does now.
Like many, I am having difficulty seeing yesterday’s verdict as a joyous or momentous occasion. Justice in this one instance unfortunately does not equate to equal protection or equal rights for Black Americans or communities of color. Communities that have experienced the traumatic aftermath of racialized policing, racial profiling and systemic racism.
There is still so much left to do. While we process the verdict, we are also faced with a stark reality, there will unfortunately and tragically be more names. Names of individuals whose lives will be taken in a society that has struggled to recognize the humanity of individuals of color.
While a murder conviction in the death of Mr. Floyd certainly is a small step in a more equitable direction, my mind centers itself on the many individuals who will never experience justice due to the color of their skin. I can’t help but to think about the extreme lengths, worldwide protests and activism that it took to shine a light on an issue that for many Black Americans and people of color is a part of our everyday lives.
Racism is a public health and societal crisis. A crisis that has gone unaddressed for too long. How will we as individuals respond in this moment? We must challenge ourselves as individuals to actively deconstruct systemic racism. Until we all commit as individuals towards creating a truly equitable society and campus, we risk perpetuating the same circumstances that has allowed racism and injustice to become enmeshed in our societal fabric. As a campus we’ve taken some positive steps forward, but there is much further to go to create a University of South Carolina where all individuals regardless of background are affirmed. This will require us to truly reconcile our institutional past concerning race and truly examine how that past impacts our present and our future.
The University of South Carolina seal states that “learning humanizes character and does not permit it to be cruel.”
These words are truer for me today, than they have ever been. My hope is that Mr. Floyd’s death inspires us all to learn, and through that learning we find beauty and humanity in our differences.
Julian R. Williams
Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion