Loyola President Responds to Death of George Floyd and Protests Around the World
In the wake of the death of George Floyd and protests around the world, Loyola University New Orleans President Tetlow shared thoughts with the campus community:
Most of us have contemplated our own mortality these last few months. We have felt what it means to be vulnerable and exhausted by anxiety. We have wandered out into the world wearing masks, or not, and suddenly wondered whether we’ll be met with hostility. For most of us who are white, this is a new set of feelings.
For African Americans, that grinding fear is a tax our nation has placed upon them every day for the last 400 years. Parents must teach their children constant awareness that white America might find them to be a threat, even as they reach for a toy. Teenagers must learn the skills of excruciating politeness and slow movements in front of the police officers meant to protect them. (Our student David Price invented a special driver’s license holder that he hopes will save lives.) Adults know that they can be attacked by strangers in “self-defense” while jogging, bird-watching or even sleeping in their own beds. Our only progress seems to be to remember the names of the lives lost, not to make the killing stop.
The impact of those daily doses of fear, medical research shows, results in chronic stress that ravages the health of African Americans. Coronavirus has given us another enormous wakeup call, watching as our sisters and brothers who are African American make up 33% of hospitalized cases and die at a rate 2.6 times higher than that of whites. Those underlying health conditions result both from the psychological toll of racism and actual racism in the health care system, where research continues to show wide disparities in the amount and quality of care given to patients.
What do we do? (Because it is simply not enough to read the news and feel bad, or post guilt-ridden platitudes on social media.) What do we do? For one thing, it starts with each of us knowing ourselves, rooting out the racist lies we’ve all been taught. That takes knowing our history, reading the evidence of how that history persists, and having very uncomfortable conversations with ourselves and our friends. For African Americans, it means rooting out the pernicious and internalized voices designed to eat away at your confidence and achievement. For all of us, it means remembering the lessons of Christianity and all the world’s great religions – that God made each of us, that God loves each of us equally, and that God commands us to do the same.
What then? We get busy preparing ourselves to make a difference and we go out there and do it. We change law enforcement behavior through constant training, careful hiring and general police reform. We change health care disparities by revealing them with research and altering the systems that allow them to flourish. We win the battle for hearts and minds through brave journalism, through truth-telling history, through literature and music that invites people to experience empathy.
I have no comfort to offer. The time for thoughts and prayers has ended. Loyola, let’s make it stop.