A message concerning the death of George Floyd
Dear Members of the Law School Community,
For the last week, as I have struggled to comprehend the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, I also have struggled with what to say. I am sorry for not reaching out sooner. I am profoundly sad and deeply angry. I acknowledge my privilege and recognize that I am not experiencing any of this in the same way as the Black people in our community. I can only begin to imagine the depth of your rage, pain and trauma. I do not know what it is like to live with persistent bias and discrimination—and to endure fear and anxiety—in every aspect of my daily life. I do not know what it is like to look into the faces of my children and pray that their futures will be determined by who they are rather than the color of their skin.
Mr. Floyd's murder is the latest stark example of fundamental, enduring, and systemic racism in this country. His death and all it represents are abhorrent to the values of this Law School. Those values rest on the bedrock—and still unrealized—ideal of equal justice for all persons under the law. Writing in dissent in Northeast Ohio Coalition, et al. v. Husted, et al., a voting rights case only four years ago, Judge Damon J. Keith, a graduate of this Law School, rightly admonished that "the murders of countless men and women who struggled for . . . equal protection cannot be overlooked. . . . I will not forget. I cannot forget—indeed America cannot forget—the pain, suffering, and sorrow of those who died for equal protection" and for the ongoing struggle for civil rights.
As members of the Wayne Law community, we must create, empower and support change. Our Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights and the Detroit Equity Action Lab have been working since their founding to address and dismantle structural racism in Detroit and beyond. Current and former Wayne Law students, faculty and staff are deeply involved in legal support and peaceful activism in the ongoing protests. These are noble and important efforts, but they are only a beginning. We must pledge to do more as individuals, as community members, and as human beings with a common moral bond to bear each other's pain, lift each other up, and confront anti-Blackness in all its forms. As part of that work, I commit myself to listening, learning, and making space for diverse voices and truths to be heard in our community. In the weeks and months ahead, I and other members of the Law School administration and faculty will be reaching out to smaller groups and to the larger Wayne Law community with ideas and initiatives for putting our values into action.
Right now, I want to call your attention to several near- and long-term opportunities to engage with the work before us. Information on legal observer training and helping with bail assistance for protesters is available through the Facebook pages of the Wayne Law Student Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the DEAL, and the Detroit Justice Center. You can find information on supporting the NAACP's We Are Done Dying Campaign here.
These events are traumatizing. I encourage you to explore Wayne State's Office of Multicultural Student Engagement (OMSE). The University's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is also available and has resources listed on its website.
During this painful time, I ask that we take care of and remain committed to each other as we face the hard and necessary work ahead. I invite you to communicate your ideas to me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) as we chart a path forward.
Richard A. Bierschbach
Dean and Professor of Law