Dean's Response to Racial Violence

June 3, 2020

The following email was sent to the LBC community of faculty, staff, advisors, and students on June 3. 

Dear members of the Briggs community,

The killing of George Floyd shows us that, in our country, unspeakable harm is suffered based on the color of one’s skin.

That this death occurred while in police custody reinforces our obligation to take seriously the calls to scrutinize our country’s policing system and its treatment of Black communities.

I’ve shared a longer personal response below. Here, in this message, I want simply to be brief and very clear: 

I stand with President Stanley and Interim Provost Sullivan in their denunciation of racial violence toward Black Americans.  

I stand with my colleagues in the LBC Committee for Inclusivity who encourage us all to educate ourselves and listen to Black voices.

I stand with those students, faculty, advisors, and staff at Michigan State University who are people of color and who want action: I hear you. I believe you. How can I help? 

I stand with each of you working now in your communities to change our world so people of color do not face a constant threat of violence, especially from those they are supposed to be able to trust to protect them.

When we return in the fall, I hope you stand with me and come together as we commit to concrete actions we can take as—and in—our college to pursue equity for our community. 

May you be safe,

 

Michele H. Jackson

Dean, Lyman Briggs College

 

The following is a personal response from Dean Jackson.



I’m here

I’m listening

I believe you

How can I help? 

 

Friday, May 29

“Wake up” says my husband, “Lyda is on Facebook saying rioters have burned Bolé and looted Axman’s.” 

What is happening?

building in ruins

Minneapolis. Personal photo


For a decade we lived just blocks from Midway neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota. The neighborhood where my godson and his parents still live. The neighborhood we return to every year at Thanksgiving. Where we frequent the Ethiopian restaurant Bolé, the quirky liquidator Axman’s, the amazing second-hand bookstore Midway, and usually even the Target. 

A neighborhood that was in flames the night before. I learn there were riots. I learn why. I watch the video. See a helpless man held down by an officer who has a knee on his neck. See a man die. I am shaking. I am numb. Days later, I still find my eyes welling with tears.
 

George Floyd memorial
Photo credit: Aaron Lavinsky, Minneapolis Star Tribune


 
Sunday afternoon, May 31

“Are those helicopters?” I say to my daughter. She and her husband and their 1-year old son have been living with us during the COVID-19 quarantine. There is an organized protest today at the Capitol, just blocks from where we live. I am chagrined to catch myself thinking the helicopters are from the news stations. How old am I?

Since I am helping to mind the baby for the afternoon, I don’t join the protest. But I watch the accounts being posted online and I follow the conversation in my neighborhood Facebook group. I can hear them out my window as they pass down the street near us. I am inspired and proud.
 
Sunday, May 31, 7:35 pm

The power goes out in our neighborhood. We live in an old neighborhood, this happens sometimes. We get online and learn that, this time, it is because someone has stolen a car downtown near the protests and run it into a utility pole. Ripped the pole in two, the top half still held up by wires. BWL says it will be repaired by 11:30 pm.

 

Power lines silhouetted against a blue sky
Personal photo

 

We sit on the porch to get the last of the sunlight, wrapped in blankets and checking our phones for updates on what is happening downtown. The peaceful protest ended several hours ago. Protestors this evening have burned a car and broken windows of businesses. In the quiet, we can hear the police fire tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd. We notice, surprised, that there are no sirens. 

Monday, June 1

Our son lives in Portland, Oregon. He and his love participated in two peaceful protests yesterday. Don’t worry, he says, we wore our masks. As a mother, I am thankful they had left by the time each turned to violence.  

My godson is a junior in high school. For the third day in a row, he has been out working with neighbors to repair the devastation to the community. I’m so proud of him. The outsiders are gone. Damage from the riots extend many blocks and touch several inner-city areas. Iconic community businesses have been burned to the ground.  

He sees a truck drive through their racially diverse working-class residential neighborhood with guns on the roof. His mother posts an alert online to her neighborhood group. She doesn’t trust the police.

In Lansing, members of the community join to clean up after the wreckage downtown. We keep an eye out for strange cars in the neighborhood. New anger rises as we hear, third hand through neighbors, stories of white people who were shocked only that the officers who killed George Floyd let themselves be filmed. We listen at night for helicopters or gunshots.

Michele Jackson in a somber pose
 

Today, June 3

With time, the pain of these events—as with all pain—will lessen. My biggest fear is that as we heal from our pain, that become inured to these acts. That we stop seeing them as unacceptable. Or simply that we see them as inevitable. And that those who endure them stop trusting, give up hope, give up faith in their community. 
 
So, to all of us, but especially to those young people who I have the privilege to know: 

• Don’t stop seeing injustice.  
• Don’t forget that we build our world together every time we speak, act, make a decision, make a choice.
• Believe in each other.  
I will never stop believing in you and your power to change the world.
 
MSU's rock painted black with the words Black Lives Matter, R.I.P. George Floyd painted on them with the raised fist of solidarity
Photo credit: Lisa Mulcrone