Dear Harvard College Students,
Writing to you in the aftermath of the news that the jury has found Derek Chauvin guilty of murder, I continue to process everything that has brought our country to this point—and all that still lies ahead. While I hope that this verdict brings some semblance of justice to George Floyd’s family and friends, it does not change the reality that Mr. Floyd does not get to see his daughter grow up, spend cherished time with friends and loved ones, or, simply, live his life. As Dean Gay said in her message to colleagues yesterday “this conviction is a rare victory.” This verdict is only one moment in a struggle that continues, and a single moment of accountability does not erase the long history of systemic oppression that brought us to this point. Adding to this pain is the killing of Ma’Khia Bryant in Ohio on the same afternoon that the verdict was announced.
The events of this past year have brought to the surface some hard truths about the inequalities and violence in our society—truths that have been evident to many of us for a long time that cannot go unchallenged. Between mass shootings, a flood of misinformation, and COVID, our emotional reserves have run low, and grappling with each painful moment and challenge can feel impossible. I’ll be honest – at times this year, I have felt close to giving up on the possibility for change.
But we cannot give up. I want to urge our community to draw on the deep reserves of strength, kindness, and generosity within ourselves and each other to keep working towards the society we aspire to become. If you are looking for a place to connect in the coming days, Harvard’s Office for Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging is hosting a Space for Reflection, Remembrance, and Response next Wednesday, April 28, on Zoom.
While our aspirations may continue to run ahead of our reality, I continue to draw inspiration from the tremendous resilience you have shown during these challenging times. The world needs people who are committed to justice and equality across all facets of society, and I am so proud to be a part of this community along with all of you.
Danoff Dean of Harvard College