Ahmaud Arbery and Georgia.
George Floyd and Minneapolis.
Steven Taylor and San Leandro, California.
Breonna Taylor and Louisville.
Names that comprise a legacy of loss and grief. Places that have become, for too many, a map of mistrust and fear.
For UK, one name entails a particularly deep sense of sorrow. Breonna Taylor was a student at the University of Kentucky in 2011.
She went on to serve as a health care provider, caring for those who needed it most. We mourn her loss. We grieve with her family.
How do we ensure that her tragic death is not forgotten? How do we do better tomorrow than we have in the past? How do we do better than we are doing today?
I don’t have answers or absolution for America’s original sin.
But we must acknowledge that the seeds of racism and hate, division and despair, continue to grow and thrive in our midst.
Systemic and systematic racism – deeply rooted in our society – has imprisoned and killed people of color in disproportionate numbers for too long.
Even as we seek a reinvented and safe normal this fall… we cannot conceptualize safety on our campus strictly as freedom from illness.
Safety also must mean freedom from fear.
We need your help to move from necessary dialogue to imperative action.
As we develop health measures this fall, we must ensure that our efforts to test and trace, screen and social distance, are conducted fairly and equitably. This work must occur in a way that doesn’t further marginalize or stigmatize.
And as we implement public health precautions that will place limits on where people gather, we must find ways to honor the fact there have been vital spaces on our campus where communities of color have gathered to build community.
As we return to our campus this fall, we must do our part to bridge divides along one of the central fault lines of this issue – the relationships among law enforcement agencies and communities of color. We have experts throughout our campus on health issues, but also regarding race, inequality, disparities and justice. They too will be called upon to help.
As we seek to be a community again in full this fall, we must ask ourselves what does free speech really mean, if it engenders fear and division? What is our role in honoring the freedom to speak up, while ensuring that we speak out more forcefully and directly when our values of inclusion and belonging are violated?
Dialogue is not enough. We have to do what we can, now, to find these solutions.
We can’t immediately eliminate seeds of hate, planted in gardens near and far.
But in reinventing our campus, we have a chance to reinvent and reimagine our community. We must take it.