Sunday, May 31, 2020
Dear VCU and VCU Health community,
For several days, I have watched crowds of people across the nation and here in Richmond express their anger and frustration over distressing, horrific events against African Americans in our country, including the recent killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta.
What I see again and again is a very public manifestation of American history and, indeed, America’s present. It is impossible to comprehend centuries of horrifying injustice against minorities in this nation, particularly African Americans. Yet, even in 2020, your skin color still influences your social mobility and vitality even more so than where you were educated, live, or work. In America, it is still far too easy for those with privilege and prejudice to undo the hard-earned successes of others, particularly racial minorities. Individual, institutional, and structural racism is still our tragic reality.
We must do better. We must recognize and respect the dignity and humanity in each of us.
This also calls for us to remain mindful of the communities we share. The protests over the past few days on and near VCU’s Monroe Park Campus have resulted in damage to our shared community, including broken windows and doors, graffiti, damaged vehicles, and debris fires. I am grateful to our many employees who have responded quickly to make repairs and keep everyone on our campus safe to live, learn, and heal.
We will work together to fix what’s broken here. We must fix what has been broken in our communities across this nation for decades.
Let’s commit to repairing broken systems that serve to create mistrust in government and law enforcement. Let’s resolve to make equitable and fair the distribution of justice. Let’s pledge to reconcile our own struggles between who we are and who we strive to become as individuals and as communities.
As we continue to process what is happening across our nation—especially the very public violence against African-Americans and to our shared communities—the one thing that makes sense is that we can no longer afford to stand by idly. None of us is immune. We must stand to change the systems we have created. We must continue to empower and support our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and neighbors to change the world by voting, and by making equity and inclusion accessible everywhere. We must think about our shared humanity in more enlightened ways, because quite frankly, black lives must matter if we are to ever realize the potential of VCU’s shared community and the vast privileges of belonging to a global community.
Michael Rao, Ph.D.
VCU and VCU Health System