UC Berkeley leaders: Chauvin verdict delivers ‘a measure of justice’

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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The following message was sent to the campus community from Chancellor Carol Christ on behalf of the chancellor’s cabinet:

Today, a jury in Minneapolis delivered a measure of justice with its conviction of Derek Chauvin on three separate charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Yet, these verdicts cannot return George Floyd to his loved ones or even begin to mend the grievous wounds caused by racism and anti-Blackness in our country. As we awaited the verdicts, many of us contemplated the true meaning of justice as we continue to deal with the continuing horror and outrage arising from the stunning number of our fellow citizens, particularly people of color, who are killed by police. According to the New York Times, during the course of testimony at the trial — a mere three weeks — at least 64 people died at the hands of law enforcement. More than half of them were Black or Latinx. This cannot stand.

We are well past the point where we need reminders of, or any sort of wake-up call about the urgent need to confront and eliminate systemic racism in all of its ugly, destructive forms. We understand why so many of us are, in the words of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Those, of course, were the words she used to describe the struggle of Black people in Mississippi for justice and freedom. Those were the words she used after she was viciously beaten in a jailhouse. Those were the words she spoke in 1963. And yet, here we are in 2021 confronting the very same bias, discrimination and anti-Blackness.

While all of us who long and work for a just, equitable and truly inclusive society are profoundly impacted by what has been unfolding in and around Minneapolis and across the country, we are particularly concerned about the toll taken among our Black friends, colleagues and fellow citizens. The testimony in the Chauvin trial triggered new waves of racial or race-based traumatic stress, made worse by continuing acts of violence and hostility against members of the Black community. Today, 12 jurors made it clear that Black lives do matter, yet there can be no doubt that still, for too many, too often, they do not.

Changing the course of campus and country

At times like this, our individual and institutional actions must demonstrate our commitment to justice and its equitable application on our campus and across our country. We are wholly committed to continuing our work to create an anti-racist university where everyone feels a true sense of belonging, and a complete absence of bias and discrimination. We need, and must settle for nothing less than a complete and comprehensive elimination of racism and anti-Blackness. There is great power and potential in our collective efforts and all that we embody, model and embrace as a campus community.

Beyond Berkeley, our university plays a unique role in generating and disseminating new knowledge to the world across the full range of academic disciplines. We will continue to engage with our faculty experts in order to explore how we can best marshal the full force of Berkeley’s research to provide and advocate for concrete proposals that will lead to meaningful, lasting change across the full spectrum of campus, local, state and federal governments; law enforcement agencies; and systems of primary, secondary and higher education. In addition, we are scheduling Berkeley Conversations that will provide an interactive forum for a discussion of these very issues and ideas.

We are committed to lifting up the research and knowledge of our faculty members on critical issues related to racial justice and have curated stories about their work in this series Racial Justice in America.

Observing the occasion peacefully

Local organizations are planning vigils, marches and other observances to offer an outlet for the emotions many are experiencing. Should you choose to participate in community observances, we encourage you to do so peacefully and to be mindful of your own personal safety.

The Public Service Center is hosting virtual spaces for students to be in community, share and connect. One is scheduled for today at 3:30 p.m. Please visit their Facebook page or email publicservice [at] berkeley.edu for logistics and virtual event registration details.

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