Dear Cal State LA Community:
The final words of George Floyd are haunting: I can’t breathe. One simple action—the removal of the knee pressed into his neck—could have allowed George Floyd to breathe and spared his life. Instead, we witnessed his killing. To bear witness is to bear responsibility, whether we choose to carry that weight or not. We cannot unsee or un-hear what we have witnessed. Nor can we ignore what we know—however hurtful the truth.
At a surreal time in our nation’s history—a time when COVID-19 has introduced new levels of suffering—the killing of George Floyd sheds light on a virulent moral and ethical sickness, a failure of the human spirit that afflicts some in our nation. We fail when we are unable to recognize our common humanity. We fail when we are unable to treat one another with respect and dignity. We fail when we abuse others, particularly when this abuse is under the color of authority. Again and again we have witnessed the dire consequences of this failure. The killing of George Floyd follows the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and so many others, and at a time when hate crimes against Asian Americans have seen an astronomical rise.
Our greatest anguish reveals our greatest potential. Just as we doggedly search for a vaccine that will bring an end to the suffering and death caused by COVID-19, we must be determined to put an end to practices, policies, and systems that prevent any of us from living well and realizing our full potential—that prevent us from breathing. This is the work that people of good conscience must engage in if the pandemic of violence against African Americans and other people of color is ever to end.
I’ve thought a great deal about the family and friends of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and their suffering, and of the trauma experienced by Darnella Frazier, the teenager who witnessed the killing of George Floyd and captured it on video. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. My thoughts and prayers are also with our Cal State LA family, those of you who are concerned for your safety and that of your fathers, sons, brothers, and nephews, mothers, daughters, sisters, and nieces. Our commitment as a community is and must always be to maintain a university that allows all students to find full expression of themselves and their potential through education, a university where identity is an asset.
The pain and other emotions that some in our community may be experiencing during this challenging time should not be ignored. Please do a self-check and recognize what you’re feeling. I encourage you to talk to trusted friends and loved ones. I encourage students to reach out to our Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Teletherapy appointments are available. Employees may contact our Employee Assistance Program offered through our Human Resources Management office.
Let’s continue to stand together and take care of each other.
William A. Covino