Speaking Up and Taking Action

June 1, 2020

Dear LMU Community:

With sadness and outrage, we have witnessed the horrifying impacts of systemic racism. Most recently, the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have devastated our society as their murders paint an all-too-vivid picture of the persistent brutality, oppression, and violence toward African Americans that has plagued the United States since its founding. These killings have never been the case of one bad apple; this is an orchard that has been ravaged by disease and requires that we work together to eradicate it.

Last week, citing the words of Dr. King, I urged that we speak up and take action in the face of injustice. Our Catholic, Jesuit, and Marymount mission demands that we stand in solidarity and hold ourselves and our society accountable for this intolerable lack of progress. The abhorrent legacy of slavery endures, and our collective complacency, especially the complacency of those in power and those with privilege, has silently allowed the original sin of this country to persist. The pain and suffering that have been passed down for centuries is untenable, and as president of a university that seeks to embody social justice, I call upon our LMU community to examine our own institutional processes and root out any signs of systemic racism, and always seek to do more.

Doing more requires us to speak up when we encounter injustice; to call out racism in every instance; to intervene when we witness all of racism’s expressions, including microaggressions and manifestations of implicit bias; and to confront our own biases. Catholic social teaching instructs us to encounter one another as persons of immutable dignity, born in the image of God. Absurdly—based solely on how our skins absorb or reflect spectra of visible light—we have constructed hierarchies of access, wealth, and judgment. Until our society truly achieves justice for all, we offend God, whose creation demonstrates a harmony built upon diversity.

We must and will do everything possible to ensure that our African American students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends are supported, safe, and know that they are essential members of our community. On Wednesday, June 3, from 3:30-5 p.m., Intercultural Affairs will host “Racism and Trauma in the Modern Moment.” The virtual forum will be a space to acknowledge the trauma of systemic violence.

This is only a beginning. Our reflection must lead to action as we ponder what we want from ourselves, our community, and from our country. I pray for our African American friends and family, I pray for Los Angeles, I pray for our nation, and I pray that our collective outcry yields transformational progress and justice.

In solidarity, strength—and, always, love,

Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D.