In the days since George Floyd's death, it is impossible not to feel grief for his family--and outrage, revulsion, and vexation that his death is the latest in a long line of tragedy and injustice, and an agonizing reminder that a person's race still determines how they will be treated in almost every aspect of American life.
No one deserves to die the way George Floyd did. Truth is, if you're white in America, the chances are you won't.
That truth is what underlies the pain and the anger that so many of us--faculty, staff, and students--at the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters are feeling and expressing, that the path of an entire life can be measured and devalued by the color of one's skin.
Over 1,000 people are killed by police every year in America, and Black people are three times more likely to be killed than White people.
We, at the Attic Institute, join the call for reforms to combat police violence and systemic racism within law enforcement.
At the Attic Institute, we believe stories help us make sense of the world. And we believe that we all can and must do more to listen to and amplify the stories of people who have suffered the legacy of racial oppression and violence that has festered throughout the history of the United States.
As writers, we are committed to seeing every person as equally deserving of life, freedom, gratitude, dignity, and the presumption of innocence.
As writers, we need to ask ourselves and each other hard questions, and listen carefully to the answers.
I can start:
If George Floyd had been white, handcuffed, and lying on the ground, would he be alive today?
Why do these killings keep happening?
What can every community do to create a police department it needs and deserves?
And, I ask myself, what can I do?
I believe writers understand that we can't honestly answer these questions if the world we live in thrives on division, blame-shifting, and responsibility-shirking. To be a writer is to accept the burdens of one's time and assume more responsibility.
It's the least we can do for George Floyd's family, and the families of all others who have been judged by the color of their skin. The future of the country, and our humanity, depends on it.
On behalf of the Attic Institute faculty and staff, individually and collectively, we are committed to actively listen, learn, and work alongside the communities seeking justice.
David Biespiel, Attic Institute of Arts and Letters