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Remembering George Floyd: A Message to the Knox Community

Old Main viewed from above, with the town of Galesburg in the background

The Knox community stands on the side of social justice. We challenge ourselves and others to take action to eliminate racial disparities locally and globally.

The message below was sent to our campus community following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis:

Dear Knox Community,

This past week, the nation’s attention has shifted from the pandemic to yet another vivid manifestation of the scourge of racism in the United States. The on-camera murder of George Floyd has again brought to the forefront the state violence that communities of color have faced for hundreds of years. George Floyd’s death follows an all-too-familiar pattern that our country cannot ignore. We write to you today because events like this have a powerful impact on many members of the Knox community—particularly our Black students, faculty and staff. Such violence, coupled with the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Latinx, and native peoples, makes evident the structural racism and socioeconomic inequalities that persist in our country.

As we experience a global crisis that will impact our communities for generations, it is more critical than ever that we use the moment to confront and condemn our nation’s historic inequalities. More than 200 people came together on Saturday, May 30, in the public square in Galesburg, called to action by a Knox student and a recent Carl Sandburg/St. Olaf graduate. For an hour, we called out the names of Black people killed by police officers, recognizing that was only a tiny fraction of the victims of racialized violence over the history of this country. As we chanted “Say their names,” we took comfort in being together in our mourning and in our anger. Even though we were masked and socially distant, we were able to come together in social solidarity. We know that many of you would have participated in the protest alongside other Knox faculty, staff and students if you had been on campus, so please know that we were there to represent you.

Along with protest actions, so, too, must Knox make decisions in this time that address these issues in our own context. Earlier this spring, we began the work of revising the curriculum and co-curriculum to provide for more focused and high-impact education on inequality, of intensifying our hiring practices to diversify the Knox faculty and staff, of implementing diversity and inclusion education for all employees, and of increasing the resources devoted to the support of Black students. That work continues. In addition, we recognize that loss of income in communities of color will create even greater needs for financial aid and the College will reallocate its expenses to meet as much of that need as we possibly can. We commit to you that we are making every decision in these COVID-19 times through an equity lens. 

It is common to hear these days that the virus does not discriminate. As a matter of biology, that is true. But exploitation and marginalization have been built into our history as a nation from its beginnings and so the virus spreads unknowingly through those structures of inequality. Unlike the virus, though, we are not unknowing and now, more than ever, we must work together to dismantle those structures and create a more just world. We ask that you join us in supporting our Black students and colleagues, and in remembering that each of us is obligated to stand up to injustice whenever and wherever it occurs. 

Sincerely,

Teresa Amott, President
Michael Schneider, Provost and Dean of the College
Anne Ehrlich, Vice President for Student Development

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http://www.knox.edu/news/knox-issues-statement-on-murder-of-george-floyd

Printed on Sunday, September 20, 2020