A Message to Our Community After the Death of George Floyd

Dear Pomona College Community:

Watching the suffocation and death of George Floyd was sickening to me and so many across our community, and not only for the loss of an individual and the horrifying details of how it took place. What strikes keenly is the senseless familiarity – it is a scene that has played out so many times before in recent years and across our history.

There is no escaping the sense that things are now moving backward on too many fronts: We’ve seen discord in our democracy that only seems to be deepening, even over matters such as the public health response to a pandemic; xenophobia threatens the fabric of so many lives intertwined in this nation; and now we see another death of a black man and the subsequent unrest unfolding in cities across the nation.

How do we, as a community, find our way through, and help society find its way forward again, even as we shelter in place, or live under curfew, or worry for ourselves, our loved ones and the strangers whom we have never met?

Through both our experience and our scholarship, we know the reality of history: that the work of change, of justice and equality, has been weaving a zigzag path at best; breakthroughs have been preceded by decades of often tedious, and too often dangerous, work for justice; and it can take only 525 seconds for violence to come to its inevitable, bitter and tragic end.

However, I know that in this dark moment, so many in our extended community are laying the groundwork for our next steps forward. I find solace in that.

We can see this moment for what it is. After a sickening, brutal, act in a long line of injustices, we see people tenaciously and peacefully standing up for change. While a few seek a chance to spark havoc, we can’t let their actions and smoke obscure the meaning of this moment. It is time to look unflinchingly at what stares us in the face: racism; hatred; fear; depravity. Yet there is more to the moment, too.

Cameras fixate on flames. We must turn to each other. Will we care for our community? Will we hear each other? Will we come together and move forward with love? In so many ways, we are each other’s future. I ask you all, as Pomona, to commit yourselves to a knowledge that, as it shines the brightest light, calls forth the best in humanity.

I ask you all, as Pomona, to comfort each other. I ask you all, as Pomona, to take your knowledge and use it to change what could otherwise be perpetually known as a human stain, if not a human sin. Seek out and test policies that might change the way force is used. Seek out and intervene in cycles of poverty. Help us understand; help motivate us through the paths of art. Use the powerful tools of the law at its most just to bring aid to those who need it. Use the spirit of innovation to find new solutions, or disseminate those that have been tested and found to be true. Find the cures that wound the body, and care for those who bear them. Help heal the wounds of the spirit that we all bear.

However you do it, you each have a talent that can, for this generation and the next, defend shared human dignity. I ask you, as Pomona—nay, WE AS POMONA—to LIGHT THAT PATH. Your entire college is here with you, and we will be standing shoulder to shoulder, taking our strength from what is best in humanity.

We will be sharing, in coming days, resources for our community. Until then let us stand proudly, and wisely, acknowledging our pain and sharing the threads of hope. Until then, may we send love to the families who are bereft.

And may we never forget that humankind has, within us, a strength, and a will, that can succor the wounded, shore up the broken, and meet, fearlessly and openly, the moral demand of making a better world.