For almost a year, the nation has focused on what took place May 25, 2020, when George Perry Floyd Jr. was killed during an arrest by Minneapolis police. The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin has been horrific to follow, serving as a reminder of the daily consequences and realities of racial violence toward Black and African American people and the inadequacies of the criminal justice system to address them. For those who have been affected by the deaths of Floyd, Daunte Wright, who was shot by police just 10 miles from where Chauvin’s trial was taking place, Philando Castile, and too many other Black, Indigenous, and People of Color members of our communities, the trial has served as a reminder that these wounds may never have the chance to heal.
The jury found Chauvin guilty of three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Now the trial moves into the sentencing phase. Even if the jury’s decision results in some level of accountability for Derek Chauvin, those who experience oppression and violence from law enforcement have little reason to trust that transformative justice will result. This case bears the weight of racial injustice, criminal justice reform, and the pain of generations of Black and Brown communities in the United States. We have much work to do to ensure that we do not lose momentum and that we continue to call attention to police brutality against the Black community.
Student affairs professionals have experienced these injustices, and also have centered their efforts on supporting students as they navigate these crises. These administrators have provided virtual and in-person space for students’ and colleagues’ questions, frustration, hurt, advocacy, and learning. Campus leaders have wrestled with the implications of police presence and faced challenges about translating statements of support into sustainable and instrumental change. This difficult work has taken place in a climate of ongoing violence and enormous upheaval.
BIPOC individuals have shouldered the burden of educating, strategizing, protesting, and advocating for an end to racism and racial violence for decades. Some, but not enough, White people have joined as committed allies and partners in action. Following Floyd’s death, NASPA called on all of our White members to commit to anti-racism work. Many have done so on campuses and through NASPA Knowledge Communities, publications, blogs, and programs. The efforts of - and burdens on - BIPOC NASPA members have also grown. In an open letter last week, the African American Knowledge Community stated, “The ongoing racial violence against Black life continues to strain our mental and emotional capacity to show-up as our authentic selves in the workplace and for the students we serve.” We cannot ignore the imperative of a call to action to support Black and African American colleagues; the education, lives, and well-being of our students and colleagues depend on answering this call to put forth meaningful and genuine efforts.
NASPA will publish a report later this summer outlining findings from a research effort conducted in response to the murder of George Floyd last year. The report will offer key considerations for student affairs administrators related to leveraging institutional statements on racial injustice to inform and create sustained actions. In addition, NASPA is conducting research on institutional policy reforms related to campus law enforcement departments. These and other topics related to justice and equity will ground the content of the NASPA Conferences on Student Success in Higher Education and NASPA Multicultural Institute.
These NASPA resources provide opportunities to further engage in anti-racism work in higher education. Yet they are only a small part of the larger and necessary actions needed to confront White supremacy, and to support and uplift Black lives and voices. NASPA affirms our commitment to demonstrating that Black Lives Matter and again calls on our White members to reaffirm their own commitment to anti-racism work.