By Quincy Guinadi & David Van Engen
Today marks the start of Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, one of the four police officers responsible for the unjustifiable killing of George Floyd. As we speak, the city of Minneapolis has responded in preparation to this trial by building barricades and increasing the presence of law enforcement. This was not a sight that eases the mind and soul about the expectations of this trial. The folks at George Floyd Square recently requested that the space be reserved as a sacred for place Black grief and healing.
As student division chairs, who also identify as BIPOC students, we would like to acknowledge the emotional burden and toll of racism on our fellow Black peers. We empathize, grieve, and share the exhaustion of witnessing and experiencing racial injustice. An overwhelming body of research demonstrates that persistent experiences of racism are associated with deleterious effects on mental and physical health (Anderson, 2016). As graduate students, we have utilized the student of color groups in our schools as a safe space to receive and provide support to other BIPOC students. These are powerful spaces for healing and dialogue. We encourage our fellow BIPOC peers to seek out and utilize safe spaces unburdened by discrimination and White supremacy. If your school does not provide an adequate space for you, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will stand with you.
For our non-BIPOC students and allies, we encourage you to consider how to use your power and privilege to educate and advocate for those affected by racial injustice and issues of equity. This article is a great place to begin a dialogue and take steps toward demanding a fair trial to hold those in power and in law enforcement accountable for their actions. Another great resource to explore and reflect on your own racial identity and power is “The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing” by Dr. Anneliese Singh, PhD, LPC.
As we brace ourselves for the trial that is expected to last 3-4 weeks, we stand in solidarity and support of our Black friends and community members. We demand justice and a fair trial to honor the pain George Floyd’s family had to endure as well as the anguish those families and communities affected by the loss of loved ones at the hands of injustice and police brutality. The NAACP said it well: “George Floyd was taken from us viciously, inexplicably, and inhumanely. Derek Chauvin is on trial to tell his side of the story. A luxury that was not afforded to George Floyd and countless other men and women within the Black community.”