Group of SEU alumni respond to President Martin’s statement on police brutality

Following President Martin’s Statement on Social and Racial Justice shared with the St. Edward’s University community on May 31st, nearly 100 SEU alumni came together to write a statement in response. The signatories have chosen to remain anonymous as they want the focus to remain on George Floyd and Black Lives. The statement is as follows:

This moment in history is not one in which we will stay silent. After 246 years of slavery, another 100 years of legal segregation and decades of systemic oppression and trauma, it is evident we must deepen our anti-racism work. Due to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Mike Ramos, Tony McDade and countless others, there has been a swell of rightful protest. We stand by our Black alumni as we demand an end to police brutality and the injustices of our legal system.

As white and non-Black alumni, we recognize our role in being anti-racist and our duty to use our privilege as leverage in dismantling racism. Furthermore, Black folks, specifically Black SEU alumni and students have shouldered this burden for too long, and it is past time for us to work alongside them and uplift their voices and concerns rather than leaving this heavy, emotional labor to them. This is why we are writing today unequivocally condemning the recent statement by President Martin.

In the statement, President Martin left out some pretty important words, most importantly “George Floyd.” While George Floyd certainly is not the first unarmed Black man to be murdered at the hands of police, his death is the catalyst for this most recent uprising. His name should have been at the very heart of the statement.

In addition to leaving out George Floyd’s name, President Martin only briefly mentioned the police and failed to call out both the systemic issues with the police and the legal system and the simple fact that George Floyd’s murder was an act of police brutality. We need systemic change, and without naming these systems, we cannot work to fix them and thus continue to aid in upholding such systems.

Additionally, President Martin failed to focus the topic of the letter on Black experiences. Instead, he began the letter by talking about his own experiences, making the tone of this letter white-centric and centered on white experiences rather than the Black experience of America and its racist systems.

This also was an opportunity to stand alongside Black colleagues, students, and alumni by unquestionably stating that Black Lives Matter. Furthermore, as an institution that prides itself on diversity, and utilizes Black students for marketing to bring in a more diverse student population, President Martin and the entire university leadership team failed to show solidarity with these students, alumni and faculty.

We need to work to deconstruct the systematic barriers blocking Black Texans, and also the inherent advantages that give white people privilege. Healthcare, education, housing, employment, wealth and access to food are just some of the systems we need to correct as a country to give our Black neighbors justice. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that disproportionately harms Black Americans, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Mike Ramos and Tony McDade only exacerbated trauma for Black Americans.

Racism is built into the structure of our American cities, and Austin is no different. Furthermore, in this moment, we must look at the rates of incarceration, the history of the war on drugs, the history of police brutality and racism embedded in the history of policing to change the way Americans view criminal justice. We know that these histories are still being written and are very much present in the justice system today.

This moment calls for more than just statements about injustice, but actions to back them up. As non-Black alumni, we are dedicated to educating ourselves on the ways we uphold white supremacy. Part of this is ensuring that our leadership structures are inclusive of Black people and people of color, working to step back and allow Black people take the lead and using our privilege in a way that is informed by Black people. While we cannot see the discussions happening behind closed doors, we doubt this statement would’ve been approved with Black leadership in the Office of the President.

This is not easy work; there will be pushback and challenge, but for every moment you are tired, remember all of the years taken from those who were murdered and all of the years that systems have unjustly oppressed our neighbors. Know that we are not nearly as tired as our Black sisters and brothers, and unless we are working to undo these structures, we are staying complacent to their consequences.

We commit to standing against anti-Blackness in the spaces we occupy. We commit to educating ourselves on what we can do as individuals and as an agency to be anti-racist and we commit to not only listening to, but uplifting Black voices. If President Martin truly wants to fulfill his idea of social justice as defined in Matthew 22, then we expect you will join us in committing to this necessary work for George Floyd and the countless others who have been murdered at the hands of police. Black Lives Matter.

Immediate Calls to Action

– Listen to Black students, alumni, community leaders and faculty to walk with Black Lives Matter without centering white experiences

– Direct support of Black students, faculty and staff and community members via a new statement that explicitly states support for Black lives

– Diversify university leadership by increasing the amount of Black Trustees, more tenure-track and tenured Black professors

– Contribute monetary support to grassroots organizations working to dismantle racism in the Austin community.

– Reinstate and expand funding for the St. Edward’s University Health and Counseling Center with a particular emphasis on hiring Black and brown therapists, doctors and nurses

– Complete transparency in university investments to corporations that uphold white supremacy

– Complete transparency regarding campus police’s involvement with APD and all other law enforcement agencies