President's Speeches & Writings:

Structural racism and recent events

President's Office
June 1, 2020

Dear Denison Community,

We are living through a deeply painful, challenging and difficult period of history. That pain is being particularly felt by communities of color and especially by African-American communities.

We are a country where structural racism has deep roots. Over the last few months, we have seen this play itself out during the COVID crisis in so many ways. To date, over 100,000 people in the United States have died from COVID, and communities of color have disproportionately suffered both the negative health and economic impacts.

The death of George Floyd is painful. We are faced with the senseless death of an African-American. Structural and persistent racism is felt deeply, systematically and daily by African-Americans. We have been here before. Violence against black bodies is a long and disgraceful part of our history. We have been here too often and too recently. The names of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor are among the many whose deaths arise from a legacy and the persistent reality of structural racism.

Society changes when we think and act differently. I believe our nation’s college campuses are crucial to this process. We have to do more to step into this space. Our campuses need to be places where we are confronting our past, learning about the structures that shape contemporary society, and finding ways to work together to create a better future.

Fairness and equality are rooted deeply in the liberal arts and in our values as an institution. We condemn hatred and intolerance of every kind. We respect and value difference and the strength it brings to our campus and our community. I want to publicly stand with our African-American students, faculty, staff, alumni and others. In the loudest possible voice, I want to condemn the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and the many others and I want to state openly that Denison is a college that is committed to ridding society of structural racism.

In this moment, I am asking every member of our community to listen with openness, vulnerability, empathy and understanding to those who are angry. I urge us to ask ourselves the difficult questions: What are we doing to condemn prejudice and promote inclusion? What are we doing to make sure our past is not our future? How do we create a society where those with black bodies don’t have to be fearful of getting in a car or walking down the street? And I implore us to recognize we have work left to do and that Denison and Denisonians have to be part of this work. We need to commit on our campus — and indeed our nation and the world — to creating a world that is just and based on human dignity and respect.

Adam Weinberg