The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties has released the following statement through its executive council:
On May 25, 2020, a convenience-store employee called 911 to report a man who had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Within 20 minutes, the 46-year-old Black man, George Floyd, was killed by three, white Minneapolis police officers, one of whom, Mr. Derek Chauvin, held his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, pinning him to the ground for at least eight minutes and 46 seconds, according to witnesses’ videos.
The harsh reality of this arrest sparked worldwide protests. Individuals from all races, creeds, colors, and genders marched to demand social justice, reforms to police practice, and to assert Black Lives Matter. APSCUF shares those views.
The heartbreak that occurred in Minneapolis was yet another in a long line of Black lives lost at the hands of police. The names have sadly become familiar to us: Jonny Gammage, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Antwon Rose, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and, most recently, Rayshard Brooks.
In many of these cases, video evidence shows exactly what happened: Police killed Black men and women. Racism exists in law enforcement. There are law-enforcement officers who hold racist beliefs, and these beliefs inform their actions. Too many Black Americans have lost their lives at the hands of individuals whom we trust “to protect and serve.”
We must, however, be very careful about painting with a broad brush. Most of our law-enforcement officers do not hold racist views. Most of our law-enforcement officers do not use excessive or deadly force. And, in fact, most of our law-enforcement officers are as disgusted as we are with the sickening actions of their fellow officers.
But systemic racism exists in the criminal-justice system — police, courts, and corrections — and we need to be cognizant of it. We need to say, out loud, that it exists. We need to overhaul this system.
While we are at it, let’s not ignore other systems in which members of poor and minority communities receive disparate treatment: our economic system and the distribution of wealth, our healthcare system, and our educational system.
As educators, we have an opportunity — an obligation, in fact — to boldly confront these issues. What must we do? We must create a diverse faculty, giving our students the opportunity to be exposed to wide-ranging perspectives that they may never have experienced before. We must acknowledge that not all of our students had the same educational opportunities in their K-12 schools, so their level of college preparation varies. We must do all we can to help each and every student to succeed. We must understand that we are educating individuals whose trajectories will take them directly into public-service careers, such as law enforcement, criminal justice, social work, healthcare, education, politics, and the endless opportunities that exist to improve our society. We must actively combat existing systemic racism by educating our future leaders, who — with our modeling, support, and encouragement — will reform and improve these systems once and for all.