Dear University of Maryland Community:
On Wednesday morning, May 26, 2020, I woke up to go through my normal daily routine of getting prepared for the workday. But even before I could start my morning walk with my dog, my cellphone was already vibrating with texts and emails about something that had happened the evening before. Many colleagues, family members and friends had sent me links to the now-infamous video of yet another black man losing his life at the hands of law enforcement. This time, for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a local shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I took a moment to click on the links and watch the more than nine-minute video of the last breath being sucked out of the body of Mr. George Floyd. As a black man, I screamed words that I cannot repeat here. As a father, I started to reflect on the safety of my son and daughter and on all the diverse communities who are negatively impacted by acts of injustice. I asked myself, what is wrong with our country when these incidents continue to happen time and time again?
In recent weeks we have again witnessed senseless acts of violence perpetrated against the black community. The tragic loss of lives—those of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and before that, the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Sean Reed—due to racial violence is deeply saddening and a stain against the values that we personally hold, and that the University of Maryland, as an institution, cherishes.
The fact that these horrific acts have occurred in the midst of a pandemic is a double blow to black and brown communities. They cause additional pain and grief at a time when we are dealing with so many other challenges. But the shameful reality is that the virus has disproportionately affected communities of color. It has exposed the base inequities of our health care system and made painfully clear how those who have suffered so many other injustices for so long must also unequally bear the burden of this disease. These additional acts of racism and hatred bring into greater focus the injustices occurring in our nation.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., once said that:
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where one stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where one stands in times of challenge and controversy."
As a university community, we must not accept these latest incidents as inconsequential. We all must rise up and stand together to show our humanity to one another. We must remind ourselves of Dr. King’s words that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Finally, we must heed the words of the late President John F. Kennedy, "what unites us is greater than what divides us."
Even though we are physically separated, now is the time to stand in solidarity and unite against any injustice.
Darryll J. Pines
Glenn L. Martin Professor of Aerospace Engineering
President-Designate, University of Maryland