As an organization, we have been deeply reflecting on the horrifying death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, under the knee of a police officer, as well as the resulting expression of anguish manifesting in widespread protests across the nation. The horror is not just that we are witness to Mr. Floyd’s death as he cries out that he can’t breathe, but that it recalls the recent murder of Ahmaud Arbery and countless other black individuals who have unjustly died because of the color of their skin.
We are far, far from immune, even in our great city. We witnessed on video just this past Monday what it looks like for a white woman to weaponize the terrible heritage of what happens to African American males, even children, in our nation and our city who are accused of threatening white women. In NYC, we have seen this play out over and over—more than three decades ago, the lives of Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise, the so-called Central Park Five, were destroyed when they were falsely accused of a rape they did not commit. And so to now witness on video a white woman, in this very same Central Park, look Christian Cooper, an African American man, in the eyes and tell him she would falsely accuse him of threatening her life—thereby threatening his life—we know as a society we are implicated in the most terrible of ways.
We are profoundly affected as educators, as parents, as family members. We feel deeply we cannot go back to business as usual when black mothers and fathers have to fear for their children’s lives when they simply go out into the world each day, when family members have to fear for the lives of their black fathers, brothers, and even sisters and mothers—when they must fear every day for their own lives.
We owe it to those whose lives have been lost in this terrible way, to our black brothers, sisters, students, friends, colleagues, to talk about how pervasive the threat of injustice, violence, and death looms every day over black individuals in America, to identify it, to call it out, to feel the horror, the sadness, the shame of it, even how we ourselves may be implicated in it by not doing enough to change it.
We are committed as a team at Zeta to taking a stand, speaking up, having constant conversation even when uncomfortable, and taking real action to own our responsibility to change this terrible status quo. As educators, we recommit to teaching our students, our colleagues, our own families and children, and those around us about this history of injustice that must come to an end.