BLSA's and Chancellor May's statements on recent tragedies
Posted By Kevin R. Johnson, May 29, 2020
I support the UC Davis Black Law Students Association and Chancellor Gary S. May, who have issued statements regarding the recent tragic deaths of George Floyd and others. I am sharing their statements here:
Dear King Hall:
As many of you know, the media has recently brought awareness to the killings of four black individuals. Here are brief summaries of those incidents:
1. Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was jogging in a South Georgia neighborhood. He was chased and shot to death by white supremacists, Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael. The perpetrators admitted to the killing in February, yet the police arrested them in May.
2.Dreasjon “Sean” Reed, a 21-year-old black man, was fatally shot by Indianapolis police after he allegedly drove recklessly. Reed recorded the whole incident on Facebook Live. After the shooting ended, the officer who responded to the scene jokingly stated, “I think it’s going to be a closed casket homie.”
3. Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman who was an emergency medical technician, was shot eight times when police officers raided her home in Louisville, Kentucky because they believed it was a “drug house.” Authorities did not find any drugs in Taylor’s home, and they discovered that Taylor did not have a history of drug use. This killing occurred in March, yet it received media attention in May.
4. George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis. He was handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a police officer’s knee. The officer’s knee was lodged in his neck as George struggled to utter that he could not breathe. His outcry was ignored. The four officers were fired, and one was charged with murder on Friday.
I, along with my black colleagues, have to face the reality that the recurring incidents described above could happen to us, our relatives, and our friends at any given moment. This is a deep-rooted trauma that we are forced to grapple with on a daily basis. As stated by writer Quinta Brunson, “Being black is having a good day and then seeing another black person was killed for no reason. Then you have to think about/talk about that all day, or don't, and numb yourself. It's a constant emotional war. Meanwhile, you still need to work and worry about everything else.”
We all have a responsibility as future lawyers to be aware of the racism that is entrenched in our legal system. It is not enough to merely feel outraged and disgusted; action must take place. We ask that you stand in solidarity with your black colleagues, professors, and friends. The senseless murdering of black people must end, and white supremacy must be eradicated.
Below are resources for students to become informed about the recent events, and how to get involved:
We must act.
Dominique Pope, BLSA Internal Vice President
Kalan Andrews, BLSA External Vice President
Dayja Tillman, BLSA Vice President
Julie Joseph, BLSA Treasurer
Alexis Logan, BLSA President
Kelli Ward, BLSA Fundraising Chair
Taylor Todd, BLSA Secretary
Chancellor May’s statement:
To the UC Davis Community:
“I can’t breathe.” These were the last words uttered by Eric Garner as he was being murdered on Staten Island in 2014.
“I can’t breathe.” These were among the last words spoken by George Floyd as he suffered the same fate under hauntingly similar circumstances in Minneapolis on Monday evening.
In 2014, I tried to explain the Garner incident to my daughters. Yesterday, I tried to explain the Floyd incident to myself. In both cases, I fell short. Murder captured on video defies explanation.
Needless to say, these tragedies hit my family and me hard. I know it’s touched a deep nerve with many of you as well. You have reached out to express your support, concern, sadness and anger, and I appreciate it. To be honest, it’s been difficult for me to know how to address this because it is so personal.
I lived in Georgia for nearly 30 years, where Ahmaud Arbery was hunted and killed. George Floyd could have been any African American man, including me. Beyond the constant barrage of fear of the negative consequences of birding while black, shopping while black, cooking out while black, exercising while black — it is just exhausting. And I’m tired.
I can’t claim to speak for all African Americans or all people of color. And to ask me or others like me to do so is a burden others don’t have to carry. So I have thought a lot about how America got here, so long ago, and why we haven’t made as much progress as we often claim.
The events of this week also cause me to believe even more strongly, if that’s possible, in building an inclusive environment that recognizes and respects people of all backgrounds and experiences. I remain committed to that and hope you will do what you can to eliminate racism, sexism, and other negative influences on our progression as a nation.
Perhaps higher education can be that positive influence on lives beyond an education. Perhaps here we can create a way forward. Perhaps here we can breathe.
Gary S. May