Dear University of Detroit Mercy Community,
Over the past few days, this country has been rocked again in a way that has become more and more commonplace. The country watched over and over again on social media as an African American man was murdered on camera by individuals representing our American legal system. His name was George Floyd. He was 46 years old.
George Floyd joins a continuously increasing list of men and women who fell victim to police brutality. This is nothing new. It was been around for generations. This is the reality we live in. As much as we would like to say this is an anomaly, we cannot. As much as I would like to say this is not abundantly personal, as a Black man, I cannot. When thinking about how to even address this to our community, I struggled. Ultimately, I decided that the way to do this was to just be completely open, honest, and do the best I can with the platform you all have given me. The truth is I am hurt. Out of this hurt, I feel an abundance of fear. What we all viewed was a visual representation of the warnings a vast number of black parents, such as my own, have given to their children. These conversations happen often and start at an early age.We are taught to always comply, to always be polite and to never be seen as a threat, which includes meticulous things such as how we should dress. Although Mr. Floyd did the same things during his lifetime, it was still not enough, as has been the case for many others. This fact is devastating.
During times like these, I pray for our country like I know many in our community do. However without action and support, justice for Mr. Floyd, as well as reform to our criminal justice system will not occur. This has been demonstrated by the previous lives lost and the frequency with which incidents such as this have reoccurred.
The University of Detroit Mercy Student Government Association does not support any political party, any current government office holder, and does not support any candidate for political office. However, it is time for us to work together. Comprehensive law enforcement policy reform is needed throughout our country. It is a way for us to serve the greater good – one of our cornerstone values as a Jesuit University. So, I ask those of you who are politically active – from whomever you support politically – demand change.
I understand that many of you may not be involved politics. Bear in mind that there are other ways to get involved and to help. You can do something more involved, such as donating time or money to different legal and social relief projects. You can do something simple, such as using your social media voice to spread the word of peace and justice. It was St. Ignatius himself who said “Love is shown more in deeds than in words.” This not only works to weed out those who wish to do harm, but also highlights those that do their job correctly. Those who work tirelessly, day in and day out, to serve justice in our communities.
Finally, I am only one man – a part of a larger community of over 40 million people. I can tell you that the pain I feel is not unique to me. For this final ask, I would like to lean on one of our Mercy values – that you show compassion. As a university community, please check in with your friends of color whether they are student of our University of Detroit Mercy or not. These times are very uncertain and tense. It is important, now more than ever, that we know who cares for us, who feels our pain, and who stands with us as we push for effective change. Express empathy and, most of all, listen. Many of us have stories and experiences, often suppressed, that come back up to the surface of our memory during times like these. If you have questions, please ask them while being mindful of the feelings we all hold at the moment. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me. Unfortunately, my parents along with countless others did not get to see their children grow up in a reformed racial society despite the work they along with their parents did. However, we have a chance to provide this for the next generation with our decisions and with our work.
Kenneth W. Donaldson II
Student Government Association President