June 1, 2020
Dear Cougar Community,
The sad and senseless death of George Floyd hits close to home for the University of Houston. He grew up in the Third Ward, our neighborhood, and graduated from nearby Jack Yates High School, where he is remembered as “Big Floyd,” tall in stature but gentle and friendly in nature. Mr. Floyd later became of member of DJ Screw’s inner circle, a group that had an immeasurable influence on Houston music and culture in the 1990s. Mr. Floyd was a member of our community, and we join hundreds of other universities and millions of Americans in condemning this brutal event and the larger failing in our culture that allows such atrocities to continue. We share in the tremendous pain our community and nation are experiencing.
Only those who have experienced systemic racism and inequity can truly understand the pain, frustration and sorrow that is being felt in the Black community right now. It has driven many to protest— most are doing so with peace and civility, but that should not be an end in itself. As a licensed clinical psychologist, UH Professor Rheeda Walker has studied the impact of racial tension on well-being and observed, “Being paralyzed with fear and sadness is not an option even for those who need it. During the pandemic, grieving and angry people have to go to work, take care of children, and pretend to move on despite the images of George Floyd’s death.”
Obviously, we don’t have all the answers. But what we can – and will do – is commit to asking the important questions: What is keeping us from doing what is right? When we know what is right, what is keeping us from taking appropriate action to address systemic racism, and social injustice that, too often, result in tragedies like George Floyd’s death? What must be done to address the great inequities that continue to exist? Universities are institutions devoted to learning and these are things that our society desperately needs to learn.
Beyond being an institution, the University of Houston is a diverse community. Our University’s diversity and our acceptance of differing viewpoints are among our greatest strengths. However, at this pivotal time, it is not enough for us to rest on diversity alone and believe we have met any sort of responsibility. Our mission as an institution and our responsibility as human beings compel us to take a stand. To those who are horrified and in serious distress: we stand with you.