Claudine Gay's Statement on the Death of George Floyd

Dear FAS Community,

Like many of you, I have watched in pain and horror the events unfolding across the nation this week, triggered by the callous and depraved actions of a white police officer in Minneapolis. We have been here before, too many times, and that familiarity is part of the heartbreak and outrage of this moment. Even as the global fight against the pandemic has forged new bonds and inspired acts of profound generosity, we are confronted again by old hatreds and the enduring legacies of anti-black racism and inequality. It’s a familiarity that makes me deeply restless for change. Part of that change is the work we do here to learn and listen across lines of difference and to build a community grounded in trust and respect. Part of that change is our work to trace the roots of inequality and its pernicious effects and to equip our students with the understanding and insight needed to create a better world. Now is the time to lean into our mission, with resolve and a new sense of urgency. 
I write this knowing that for some in our community, and I count myself among them, the events in Minneapolis, Brunswick, Louisville and beyond, feel anything but abstract; to the contrary, the headlines stir an acute sense of vulnerability. We are reminded, again, how even our most mundane activities, like running, which is something I am passionate about, can carry inordinate risk. At a moment when all I want to do is gather my teenage son into my arms, I am painfully aware of how little shelter that provides. It shouldn’t be this way. Our presence and our voices make these experiences visible—and that, too, is part of the change. Together with the many who know these fears only vicariously, we must actively work to build a more just society, where no one is above the law and where each of us is treated with the dignity that is our birthright. 
The death of George Floyd is a singular tragedy for his family, the mother he cried out for, and all those who cared about him. For those of us who did not know him, we experience this as another kind of tragedy, as we add yet another name to all those, like Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade, that have come to symbolize the brutality of racist violence in this country. It reminds us of the distance we still must travel to truly be the nation of our ideals. The thought of that distance can be overwhelming and exhausting, but the fight for change requires our resilience. I urge you to lean on this community as you lean into the work that brought you here and the better world it seeks to create.