The Office of Inclusive Excellence and Global Education (IEGE) and the Racial Justice Committee (RJC), on behalf of the Le Moyne College community, decry the ongoing violence against Black people in America. We are communicating following consultation with and on behalf of President LeMura and the senior leadership team of the College. All of us at Le Moyne commit ourselves to becoming an antiracist institution and therefore will continue to lay bare and denounce incidents of police brutality and racial injustice.
Our nation became painfully aware of yet another Black man shot by police on Sunday evening, Aug. 23, in Kenosha, Wis. Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back at point-blank range and is currently paralyzed from the waist down and suffering from severe internal injuries following emergency surgery. The complete story is still unclear but the fact remains that, as in many other cases, Blake was turned away from the police officers when he was shot. On the video, the officer escalated from words to shots in a moment, without using the other options officers have at their disposal. Two days later, Kyle Rittenhouse, a White man with a shotgun, drove to Kenosha from out of state under the guise of protecting businesses in the area, and shot three people, killing two. The police apprehended him without incident or violence. Clearly, Rittenhouse was a threat - he had a gun and had used it - yet he is safely in police custody, while Jacob Blake could have been killed.
We know that some cases of lethal force have grey areas but others are quite clear, like the case of George Floyd. While most police officers condemned Floyd’s killer, the nation and the Black community have watched other police officers repeatedly escape justice for their actions. Again and again, the police and those responsible for sitting in judgment over these cases have proven that some members of law enforcement are above the law when it comes to equally applying that law to every member of our community. These cases highlight the injustice inherent in how the law is applied and upheld within Black and Brown communities and are a manifestation of the 401 years of systemic racism endemic to our country.
As an institution committed to advancing social justice, we cannot focus on the questions: Who is this individual and what have they done in their past? These questions can lead us to blame the victim, rather than look at the larger patterns of racist discrimination in our society. The question we need to ask ourselves is: Why do Black people face death more frequently at the hands of law enforcement officers than any other group? 1 The Black community is asking that the promise of “innocent until proven guilty” be applied to them. A mere assumption of the guilt of a Black person seems to precede many incidences of police encounters with members of the Black community. The social contract that all citizens are entitled to live by in this country is not afforded to its Black citizens. Asking this “why” - why it is that Blacks face death at the hands of law enforcement so frequently - is what we are called to focus on in an attempt to do our part in dismantling the system we find ourselves complicit in.
Le Moyne College, the IEGE office and the newly-formed RJC stand together to decry the violence towards yet another Black man. We must say something every time we witness injustice to be on the right side of history.
1 African-Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, but 23% of those killed by police.