As people who seek justice and promote peace, we are outraged and saddened by the brutal killing of George Floyd and troubled by the violence that has accompanied and obscured the peaceful protests of those who have taken to the streets in anguish and in solidarity with Mr. Floyd and his family—and with the countless numbers of victims of racial violence and injustice in this nation and elsewhere in the world.
Racism is America’s plague, no less deadly than any virus; the institutions and social practices it has infected for generations continue to rob African Americans, our brothers and sisters, of their right to life, to security, to a fair chance at prosperity. Speaking for myself, I ruefully acknowledge that as a white person of privilege, I am complicit in spreading this plague, not least by my feeble and inconsistent efforts to contain and overcome it.
The mission of the Keough School is a double-edged sword. If we proclaim that we are committed to upholding the dignity of each and every person, especially the marginalized and most vulnerable, then we are obliged to examine our own discriminatory practices and oppose the violations of dignity that confront us daily in our own backyard. Otherwise, our fine words indict us as hypocrites, unequal to the task we have set for ourselves. Statements of outrage must be accompanied by meaningful action.
What, then, are we to do?
The Keough School can and must have a powerful voice in the national and global debate about racial injustice and the related array of threats to human dignity.
As a community of teachers and learners working in a Catholic research university, we are committed to turning scholarship, practice, and policy to the ends of justice. There are certain practices constitutive of us as a community of educators; one is communicating the findings and implications of our research to a variety of audiences, including those in a position to effect social and political change.
As a school of global affairs, we encompass both the local and the global, and we have been reminded by the protests across the world that the problem of institutional racism is not confined to this or that local community or nation. In expertise and presence our faculty ranges across this local-global spectrum, placing the Keough School in a distinctive position within the university.
Since we opened our doors in 2017, we have begun leveraging our expertise and amplifying our voice in local, national and international debates. We have many resources already at hand—from our students, alumni and staff, many of whom are deeply engaged with these issues; to the Global Policy Initiative, which provides a foundation for more consistent translation of research into policy-relevant writing and advocacy; to the many courses on civil and human rights, intersectionality, and social justice offered by our faculty; to the innovative programs, events and modes of communication (blogs, podcasts, etc.) developed by the various institutes and centers.
But we can and will do more than this.
If we are to address the systemic assaults upon human dignity that plague African Americans and other people of color in our society and elsewhere in the world, we must come together and act intentionally as a community of scholars, educators and practitioners. To this end, we will initiate a process for engaging all members of the Keough School community in order to identify concrete actions to take in the weeks and months ahead.
Fragility is not someone else’s problem; it is ours. Let us allow the outrage, anguish, and sorrow of the present moment to renew our commitment to the hard work of genuine solidarity.
Marilyn Keough Dean
Keough School of Global Affairs