Over the past 12-days, we have witnessed mass demonstrations, protests, and violent unrest in cities across the nation, around the globe, including here in Cleveland, in the wake of the horrific death of George Floyd, who uttered the now ominous words, “I can’t breathe,” just before taking his last breath, as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. This is but the latest in an all too familiar series of murders of unarmed African Americans killed by police or citizens purportedly acting under the color of law or in self-defense. Millions of protesters of every race, ethnicity, sexual identity, and social background have taken to the streets to demand an end to racial and police violence, the transformation of policing in America, and the eradication of systemic racism.
This is all unfolding while we are still in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 110,000 lives in the U.S., shut down entire countries, forcing their populations to shelter-in-place, and devastating economies around the world. No one is immune to this deadly disease, however certain segments of our population, e.g. the elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, and other marginalized groups are disproportionately being impacted by the virus, it is having a particularly acute effect in the African American community. There has also been an increase in acts of racism, bigotry, and hatred targeting the Asian community, as some in the media and public officials refer to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus,” stoking racial fears and a heightened atmosphere of xenophobia.
The confluence of these twin pandemics, systemic racism and COVID-19, one historic and one novel, have laid bare the deep structural and institutional racial inequities and divisions that still exist in America, the ramifications of which are found within every segment of our society. In spite of the public health protocols that still require us to maintain a six-foot social distance from one another, it is in times like this, that we as Americans must turn towards one another, and come together as a community and nation, as we have witnessed over the past two weeks, rather than pull further apart. As reflected in the images of the masses of diverse, multicultural protesters demanding racial and social justice in communities in every state and countries around the world, the Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and University Engagement at Cleveland State University is committed to working to create an inclusive, equitable, and just environment that enables all students, faculty, and staff and members of the broader community, to excel while being their full and authentic selves, one that dignifies and values our common humanity and celebrates our multifaceted diversity. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”
Yours in Solidarity,
Dr. Ronnie A. Dunn,
Chief Diversity Officer,
Associate Professor of Urban Studies
Cleveland State University