June 3, 2020
On Monday, I sent a letter to the BU community to express my horror at the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd at the hands of police officers and others motivated by their hatred of Black people. I tried to express my condemnation of a racist system that is deeply embedded in American life and creates an environment where the murder of Black people and their systematic exclusion from social and economic justice is a daily part of this country’s existence.
Many of you read that letter and have told me I did not do a good job in expressing how I felt about this tragic situation and the state of our country. Hundreds of you spoke from the heart, and I hear you loud and clear. Talking about the return to campus in the same breath as the deaths of those individuals, as I did in the letter, was a mistake. Your concerns have pushed me to reflect on what is most important to say to you at this moment. So if you will allow me one more opportunity.
The entire Boston University community condemns what has transpired in Minneapolis and every other city where African Americans have been killed and racism has been tolerated.
The lives of our Black students, faculty, and staff, and all Black lives, matter. The deaths of Black men and women at the hands of racists should shake every other soul in this nation and make us understand and share your anger.
Racism is an affront to humanity. At universities, of all places, we should understand that by not reminding ourselves of this every day, by not assuming responsibility for its eradication, we aid and abet its perpetuation. And yes, while Boston University has taken a number of steps to fight racism and promote social and economic justice, we need to assume even more responsibility, which we will do and you will see in the months ahead.
I am sorry that I disappointed so many of you on Monday. It was the last thing I wanted to do. Like you, I am sickened by what has happened and continues to happen in our country. In my letter, I spoke like the engineer I was trained to be, trying to look ahead to a time when our community can work together to push out racism and bigotry. Today, this letter is from my heart, and my heart is with all of you who feel the dehumanizing sting of racism, and who lose a part of your own life every time a Black man or Black woman is murdered because they are Black.
Robert A. Brown