We are dismayed and outraged about the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by the lethal force of Officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd had been handcuffed and pushed to the ground, whereupon Officer Chauvin forcibly pressed down on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes as depicted in an independent video of the scene. In spite of Floyd stating repeatedly that he could not breathe, the officer did not relent, and Floyd subsequently died.
Such brutality by a police officer must not only be condemned; it must cease and desist. We know all too well that people of color, especially African-Americans, are more frequently stopped, searched, arrested, convicted, and incarcerated than any other group of people in our communities. This is a bewildering reflection of the racism embedded so deeply in our society.
We understand that police officers face situations that are dangerous, unpredictable, and complicated, and we hasten to honor those officers who uphold the law when their own lives may be at risk. We also acknowledge those first responders to crises in our communities and their often heroic work. We express heartfelt gratitude for these officers and their actions.
The killing of George Floyd, however, was no such situation. It is also only the latest instance of such excessive police force in our country. Unlawful action by legal authorities has scarred the countenance of this country now for centuries. It must stop.
Some police leaders attribute Officer Chauvin’s actions to “poor technique.” Doubtlessly, there are far better approaches to citizens by police officers that involve de-escalation and disengagement practices, but the brutality of the treatment of George Floyd manifests something far more than technique alone. It is the depth of this kind of racist passion that so often resides in our very culture and in us that must be turned around, cleansed, and redeemed.
As people of Christ, we confess the ways we as individuals and the school as a social institution have been complicit in the maintenance of the systems of oppression that give rise to racism and death-dealing brutality. We pledge to address systemic racism in our communities, our churches and ourselves as a commitment to a new day in our racial and intercultural relations. We reach out to others to make the changes in these systemic injustices and violations so desperately needed.
President Neil Blair ’80 and Rev. Dr. Tex Sample, Board of Trustees Chair