Response to Racial Violence

Statement of the Faculty and Staff Concerning the Death of George Floyd and its Aftermath

The faculty and staff of the Emory University Center for Ethics look with sadness and horror at the current situation in Atlanta, in Georgia, and the United States. We feel compelled to respond to the appalling acts that are yet another reminder of the ongoing injustice and the structural racism that permeates American society. The killing of George Floyd by police officers, following too many other killings, is not only a personal tragedy for him and his family but also one for the country as a whole.   

The Center for Ethics responds to that racism as an ethical and moral concern, not a partisan one.  Mr. Floyd’s killing, and those of far too many others, demonstrates moral failings that too often have been ignored in our country’s history. We, therefore, add our voices to those offered by Emory University’s current president, Claire Sterk, incoming president Gregory L. Fenves, acting provost Jan Love, and the deans of its several schools condemning the violence and reminding ourselves of our responsibility and culpability. Statements, however, are insufficient. We must move beyond a wringing of hands and a bemoaning of reality. Individually and collectively we must act. These actions will demand a deep soul-searching, both as individuals and society-wide. We must work to remove the racism that poisons our body politic and strive to establish a society built on justice and equality.  

The work, however, cannot and should not be delegated to those victimized by that racism. It is work that must be undertaken by those who have benefitted from it. While racism is a problem for people of color, eliminating it must primarily be the responsibility of white people. Those who have benefitted from structural racism must lead the work in eliminating it. That said, this work can only move forward if all of us work, individually and in community, to combat racism and its destructive consequences. The steps one can take include: 

  • Accepting the challenging, disturbing, and necessary work of grappling with the way that race permeates our daily lives and results in radically different lived experiences for white people and people of color; 
  • Denouncing each and every racist statement and action, however explicit or hidden, we encounter; 
  • Supporting with our time, treasure, and talents organizations dedicated to eradicating the systemic and structural manifestations of that racism in education, politics, economics, law enforcement, incarceration, and elsewhere. 

No institution is immune to this racism. The Center for Ethics acknowledges that even it, as an institution immersed in America, has not escaped racism in all its complexity and pervasiveness. As an organization, the Center commits itself to undertaking the work necessary to create and maintain a just and equitable world, in its work environment, its teaching and training, and its engagement with community partners.