A Message Following the Verdict in the Murder Trial of Derek Chauvin

Dear Western Community,

Today the jury in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, found him guilty on all counts.  Like many of you, I have followed the trial closely and with some apprehension, and today we breathe a collective sigh of relief that the verdict has brought justice to Mr. Floyd and his family and affirmed the voices of millions of people worldwide who denounced his death and the racism that led to it. 

But we know this trial is not an end.  Since testimony began in the Chauvin trial on March 29, at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, with Black and Latinx people representing more than half of the dead.  Among these senseless tragedies was Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy who was fatally shot in a Chicago alley as he turned with his hands up, and Daunte Wright, shot during a routine traffic stop just a few miles from where the Chauvin trial was taking place.

Across our communities, from police reform activists to law enforcement personnel, there is emotional and mental exhaustion — and the feeling that our nation just can’t get this right.

It is my hope that this trial, and the activism and awareness which resulted from the murder of Mr. Floyd, will bring us one step closer toward ending the systemic and deep-rooted prejudice which denies many people of color the same protection, opportunities, and hopes that white people have come to expect.

I also hope that Mr. Floyd’s legacy—and the legacy of the many other Black people who have lost their lives to police violence—helps to illuminate and correct the many other racial injustices which continue to afflict our society including the fight to secure voting rights for people of color.

I am committed to ensuring that Western Washington University continues its ongoing efforts to advance our antiracist values, including moving forward on the creation of an Office of Equity staffed with deeply experienced leaders who can enact change and deepen our efforts at equity and inclusion.  We must continue to stand up against every manifestation of racism and create the kind of community in which each of us is treated with dignity and respect.

Please seek support if you need it.  The Counseling Center and the Employee Assistance Program are open and available, even at a distance.  In addition, the Counseling Center is holding a number of Breathing Space/Sawubona Healing Circle gatherings.  If you witness or are aware of racist incidents, please speak up and report them.  If you have experienced discrimination or harassment, Western’s Office of Civil Rights is also here to help.

Although not all of us carry the trauma of systemic racism, it is my greatest wish that we stand together in the effort to overcome it. 

Sincerely,

Sabah