Black Lives Matter to Macaulay


People everywhere are grieving and angry over the senseless death of George Floyd, whose murder once again reveals a police officer displaying a depraved indifference to the life of a Black person. Once again, we are haunted by a dying man saying, “I can’t breathe.” It must be said that Black Lives Matter. Yet the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Ramarley Graham, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Kendra James, and so many others tell us that American society does not value Black lives.

The fact that our society does not value Black lives was illustrated just last week when a white woman in Central Park, Amy Cooper, called 911 with false charges of being assaulted by an “African-American.” She clearly intended to create a confrontation between the police and an innocent bird-watcher. We know that these kind of calls have resulted in assaults, arrests, and even killings of Black people. The fact that our society does not value Black lives is also apparent from the disproportional deaths of Black people by COVID-19, which can be attributed to significant health and socioeconomic disparities.

“Thoughts and prayers,” regardless of how heart-felt they may be, are entirely inadequate without action. All of us must reflect deeply and consider how our societal structures reinforce racial inequality. We can no longer abide by the status quo. We must take action to create a new society that recognizes the effects of slavery and systematic inequality. We must free ourselves—all of us—from this poisonous legacy.

The first step is to acknowledge the violence of racism in this country, and the terror it evokes in people of color. I would like to see our nation engage in a process of truth and reconciliation, and I believe that will happen, because there are enough people of good will to make it so. In the meantime, let us demand an end to inequitable treatment by race, from the deadly physical violence inflicted by the police, to the attacks on health and livelihoods caused by discriminatory public policies.

At Macaulay, let us show our solidarity and respect for one another by acknowledging that racial bias and police brutality are realities for Black members of our loving community of scholars. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” No one should be silent during this time. The entire nation should be seeking justice.

On Friday, a group of Macaulay staff and faculty had a deep discussion on the current and historic roots of violence against Black communities. Because we have a multiethnic community of trust, we were able to hold this conversation with openness and empathy. We started a reading list and made a plan to continue and enlarge the discussion to include more members of our community. We will also ensure that similar explorations of inequality and social justice are embedded within our Core Honors Seminars.

What other concrete steps might we take within the Macaulay community? Members of Macaulay’s Diversity Initiative have already begun preparing their suggestions, and I encourage all of you to share your ideas, too.

I would like to close by noting that while today we hold our Black brothers and sisters in the light of love and esteem, every single member of the Macaulay Community is a precious asset. We are fortunate to exist in a wonderfully diverse community. Macaulay students, with your collective strength and diversity and preparation for leadership, you will help forge a future for New York that will be characterized by mutual respect and appreciation for each other. The future leadership of our city in its many sectors will be in very good hands. Right now, let us rededicate ourselves to building alliances of mutual support within our community, and across the many communities that make up this great City of New York.

Mary C. Pearl

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