Cornell Law School’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) stands with the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery. We give honor to their memories and to the memories of countless others who have been unjustly taken from this world, whether we know their names or not. We extend our heartfelt condolences to their loved ones and acknowledge that the people they have lost are more than a hashtag.
Black people are in a unique position today, facing both the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrelenting violence against our brothers and sisters all across the country. In the last month, we have seen videos of Ahmaud Arbery’s and George Floyd’s murders. We have seen reports of Breonna Taylor’s and Tony McDade’s murders. This trauma is incessant in the age of social media and more than any community should have to bear.
While we continue to grieve Mr. Floyd and others, we are reminded that murders like his are the result of centuries of injustice and oppression – of this country’s refusal to address and change its longstanding practice of anti-Blackness. More often than not, senseless killings by police result only in superficial reprimand that falls short of addressing the underlying problems that support a racist system. To be sure, true justice does not stop at an arrest – true justice requires that we reexamine the structural inequities that continuously exclude and actively oppress Black and brown people.
Many of us applied to law school hoping to make a difference, to be an ally. As lawyers in the majority, many of you will have access to spaces and tables that your Black counterparts will not. When the time comes, it will be important for you to remember this moment – remember your responsibility as movers and shakers in our justice system. Remember that your Black friends will continue to mourn long after this country has forgotten why we were protesting to begin with. We bear the burden of constantly burying our brothers and sisters and ask that you stand next to us as we endeavor to dismantle the system of oppression.
Do not be complicit in the deaths of Black people. Have those tough conversations with your family, friends, co-workers, and fellow students. Do not shy away from the fact that both police officers and civilians are continuously allowed to use lethal force and violence against Black people. To remain silent – to remain neutral – is to side with our oppressors. Your silence is violence. Publicly demand equality, justice, and safety for us.
For those who are anxious to learn more about their role in this fight, please consider the resources below:
An Antiracist Reading List – “By not running from the books that pain us, we can allow them to transform us. I ran from antiracist books most of my life. But now I can’t stop running after them – scrutinizing myself and my society, and in the process changing both.” – Ibram X. Kendi
Don’t Let the Loud Bigots Distract You – “We believed that our country had become less racist, because we were not as brazen as we once were.”
Reach out to your Congress members to find out how your tax dollars are being used to maintain violent police tactics and to inquire about tangible changes to policing policies in your communities.
George Floyd mattered.
Ahmaud Arbery mattered.
Breonna Taylor mattered.
Tony McDade mattered.
Nina Pop mattered.
Atatiana Jefferson mattered.
Renisha McBride mattered.
Alton Sterling mattered.
Mike Brown mattered.
Tamir Rice mattered.
Trayvon Martin mattered.
Oscar Grant mattered.
Philando Castille mattered.
Sandra Bland mattered.
Eric Garner mattered.
Freddie Gray mattered.
Martin Luther King Jr. mattered.
Malcolm X mattered.
Emmett Till mattered.
Black Lives Matter.