Helene Dillard

Dean Dillard's statement on George Floyd

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

Spring quarter 2020 has been a challenge for all of us, with a pandemic in full swing, the difficulties of teaching, learning and working online, and most recently, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the resulting protests nationwide.

I have struggled to find the words that express my shock, anger, sadness and despair. As an African American mother of an adult son, watching the George Floyd video on television triggered feelings of fear, distress and worry for all my family members.

People have asked, “why are there massive protests and violence this time?” My response is that this time was one time too many—the straw that broke the camel’s back. This time we are seeing a cumulative response to years of racism, discrimination, beatings, abuse and death. African Americans have suffered racist acts for years that have largely gone unnoticed on a national scale. What has changed now is that these brutalities are captured on cell phone videos and broadcast openly for the world to see. What has also changed is that African American protestors are now joined in solidarity by protestors from many different races, ethnicities, backgrounds and cultures. Instead of one or a few voices crying out, many voices are demanding that the brutality and underlying systemic racism stop.

In African American communities, it is common for us to discuss the many issues that can arise when driving while black. This concept is also true for shopping while black, riding a bike while black, walking while black, flying while black, hoteling while black—the scenarios go on and on. I can personally fill in the blanks for all the above, and so can our African American faculty, staff and students.

UC President Janet Napolitano provided guiding statements, Chancellor Gary May gave insight into the world of a black man, the UC Davis law faculty and students expressed their concerns for justice, the police chiefs from UC Davis and the city of Davis released a joint statement on appropriate training, and UC Davis students who are still in the area expressed their outrage in a peaceful protest. Perhaps this time the power of education can be unleashed to address this centuries old problem and result in solutions to systemic racism, inequities, injustices and discrimination.

The images we see are waking up the world to this continuing horror story. I don’t know what the definitive answer is, but my heart tells me that education is central and crucial to solving this problem. What we need today are open hearts and open minds, with humans valuing and treating each other’s lives as precious as they value and treat their own.


Helene Dillard