May 31, 2020

In Support of the African American Community

Dear UCI Community:

We watched with shock and horror the video of a white policeman callously, even casually, kneeling on the neck of an unarmed and unresisting black man until that man was dead, while other policemen stood by and watched.  This brutal and racist act was like something out of Mississippi during Jim Crow, out of the past we don’t acknowledge enough, but it wasn’t.  It is our reality, in the here and now, a reality that reflects the harsh, brutal, terrible, ongoing legacy of America’s original sin.

We empathize with the pain, sadness, and anger that many Black students, employees, and alumni understandably are feeling.  Please reach out to any of us if we can help you during this extraordinary time.

The unrest that is roiling our country, from coast to coast, is a profoundly distressing statement of the crisis of our society.  At the core of this crisis is the reality of anti-Black racism in the United States.  The death of George Floyd was not isolated.  Breonna Taylor, a first responder, died in a hail of gunfire in her Louisville home in March.  Tony McDade, a Black trans-masculine person, was shot and killed by Tallahassee police.  Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia was hunted down and murdered by vigilantes.  His story is all too familiar.  Unarmed, Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in 2012.  Their crime: jogging and walking while Black.  This sickening and outrageous roll call goes on and on.

The response to these and other unjustified deaths reflects a profound and justified sense of grievance and frustration with policing and our justice system.  The unrest that we are witnessing is no less about the persistence of systematic oppression and exclusion in educational opportunity, participation in the economy, access to health care, and all areas of social life essential to social justice and human well being.   

As Vice Chancellor Haynes noted in his message last Thursday, the experience of anti-Blackness belies the notion that “We are all in this together.” 

But if we are to survive, as a nation, as a society, we must be in this together.  

Here at UCI, an institution devoted to the betterment of the world, our Inclusive Excellence Action Plan focuses on promoting a campus culture defined by community, thriving, and wellness.  That is not enough.  We can and must do more. All of us, collectively, must confront the distinctive, fundamental reality of anti-Blackness. We must also look forward and explore what we can do—in our practices, our teaching, our research, our community engagement, our interpersonal interactions—to mitigate the pervasive and systemic injustices and brutalities of anti-Blackness.

To this end, Vice Chancellor Haynes will develop and launch by fall 2020 a wide-ranging initiative.  With input from campus stakeholders and community, this initiative will ensure that our campus community is educated about anti-Blackness, takes steps to dismantle anti-Black sentiment, enhances scholarly expertise and research, promotes the intellectual and cultural capital of Black communities, transforms the professoriate and knowledge workforce of the future, and identifies other ways we can rise to the serious challenges confronting all of us.   

We stand in unity with the African-American community to deepen everyone’s understanding so that we make this world a better place, for today and for future generations.  To do this work we must be in this together.

Let there be light for us all,

Chancellor Howard Gillman
Interim Provost Hal Stern
Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs Willie Banks
Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Douglas Haynes
UCI Chief of Police Liz Griffin