Dean Michael Barr addresses racist violence

June 2, 2020

Dean Michael Barr sent the following letter to the Ford School community last night, Monday, June 1:

Dear friends,

I am writing to you at a time of great sorrow and upheaval. I write to acknowledge the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the latest names in a long list of Black lives lost to racist violence in our country. The Ford School mourns their loss and stands in solidarity with their families and loved ones. I am heartsick at the suffering many are experiencing.

I write tonight to remember Trayvon Martin. Atatiana Jefferson. Botham Jean. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Walter Scott, and so many others. Hundreds, thousands of others whose names are known only to their families.

It is important to acknowledge that the violence and inequality in our systems are the result of centuries of laws, policies, and institutions that entrenched and enforced racist inequality. As but one example, MSU Professor Lisa Cook has shown that lynching and race riots against African Americans between 1877-1940 dramatically depressed patenting rates by Black innovators for the next century.

Racism and racist violence wreak daily, debilitating, exhausting stress on Black people in America. The violence traumatizes. This latest comes layered over the past few years with white nationalist attacks on synagogues, on immigrants, on African-Americans, and LatinX, and Asians, and near-daily rhetorical attacks from some elected officials. It is almost too much to bear.

We must not ignore the role of racism in our society. As James Baldwin wrote, "People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster."

COVID-19 laid bare the inequalities in our health system and in our economy. Now, George Floyd, killed by a police officer as others watched. And in the aftermath many, many police officers and departments engaged in violent confrontations all over the country. As policy professionals, we must commit ourselves to addressing these public challenges, difficulties, and social ills directly, with courage and grit and peace in our hearts.

Dear Ford School family: please know that none of you is alone. I stand with you -- let us all stand together.


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