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A message on the George Floyd tragedy

Michael Benitez, Ph.D., vice president for Diversity and Inclusion

May 29, 2020

 

Dear Roadrunner community,

It is with a heavy heart that I write you about another instance of violence inflicted on an African American man in America. The death of 46-year-old George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died after a police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes earlier this week, has once again shined a spotlight on racially motivated violence in this country.

Four police officers have been fired in the wake of this tragedy, while citizens are protesting in Minneapolis, Denver and across the country. The Minneapolis mayor said anger is not only understandable but “right,” while a city council member asked for a state of emergency to declare racism as a public health issue.

I too am angry. Earlier this month, I wrote about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and discussed ongoing, overt racism with disconcerting data on race relations in the U.S. At the same time MSU Denver leaders facilitated a space of support and discussion for campus members, we learned about the tragic death of Breonna Taylor, an African American woman in Kentucky who was shot and killed when police entered her home in March. These are not isolated incidents in America, and Arbery, Taylor and Floyd are not numbers or stories. They are people we have lost. They are people who lost their lives because of what they look like. As I made clear in the prior statement, these acts of racial bias and violence are deeply troubling, and we must stand together to condemn the systemic racism that enables such tragedies to occur.

As Roadrunners, we should speak out against injustice. More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the National Cathedral about the “appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, ‘Wait on time.’” It is once again time to say something.

I encourage you to show your support for students, colleagues or neighbors of color who are surely feeling the weight of these tragedies. Injustice is dependent on indifference. Leadership is about showing up or saying something, so speak up for what is right. Reach out to the people you know who are hurting and let them know they are not alone.

For our students, faculty and staff of color, know that your Roadrunner family is here to support you. These violent incidents that capture our national attention are not OK. Neither are the instances of racial bias you face every day because of your skin color. We recognize that and want to provide a safe, inclusive environment for everyone at MSU Denver.

If you’re a student, we have people you can talk to about these difficult times. Our staff at the Center for Multicultural Excellence and Inclusion have done a great job engaging students remotely this spring. You can reach someone at cmei@msudenver.edu. MSU Denver students also have access to the Counseling Center, which offers free and confidential mental health assistance. Call 303-615-9988 or visit the Counseling Center website to arrange a remote appointment.

MSU Denver employees have access to confidential resources through the Colorado State Employee Assistance Program, free of charge. CSEAP can be reached by phone at 303-866-4314 during business hours, or you can contact Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 or http://coloradocrisisservices.org after-hours.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) and the Center for Equity and Student Achievement (CESA) are working together to develop space for support and opportunities for community gathering, including reaching out to faculty, staff and students, and will communicate these opportunities in the near future.

In a civil society, we are all responsible for justice, and we need to come together to support each other in trying times. MSU Denver does not stand for racial intolerance, and we must continue to work together to provide a safe, inclusive environment for all Roadrunners.

Sincerely,

Michael Benitez, Ph.D., vice president for Diversity and Inclusion


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