Dear Warrior community,
Yet again our nation is rising in anger and sorrow at another senseless death of a black man, this time due to brutality exhibited during an arrest. I wish to share my thoughts with you about this terrible tragedy.
Unfortunately, racism and the disparate impact of violence in the black community remain national issues, but we should remember that each of these incidents involves real people. George Floyd had family and friends who mourn his death, and dreams that will never be fulfilled. My heart aches for this loss, and my sympathies go out to his loved ones. No person in America — regardless of their race, creed or religion — should ever fear for their life simply because of who they are or how they look.
But the fear is real, because far too often it feels like we’re living the same nightmare. How do we deal with it? We demand better of all citizens, particularly those we trust to keep us safe. We also come together — not in violence, but in protest against violence, and in sympathy for those to whom violence has been committed. The compassionate, inclusive and community-minded ethos that defines Wayne State is one of the things I value most about this university, and we need to draw on it now.
Even though we can’t gather physically to mourn, we can still support each other through the means we have. Wayne State University will host a virtual dialogue on Wednesday, June 3, at 5 p.m. We hope you will join us using this Zoom link (Meeting ID: 831 3199 8274. Password: 598720).
Another reason I write today is to remind you that senseless deaths and mishandling of justice like those we've seen in Minneapolis and Atlanta are precisely why we take racial sensitivity training so seriously with the Wayne State University Police Department. Our officers regularly receive training on how to act in all types of situations, with all types of people. We are now taking the lead in this important training with the establishment of the headquarters of National De-escalation Training Center (NDTC) with Wayne State’s police department. The NDTC has filed for non-profit corporation status with the State of Michigan and has already begun de-escalation training of sworn Wayne State University police officers. The training offered by the NDTC has been specifically developed and designed to exceed traditional de-escalation methods, with the goal of fostering positive interactions with citizens and reducing the number of needless and tragic encounters that result in injuries and deaths to both citizens and police officers.
Here in Detroit, a city that has been ravaged disproportionately by the coronavirus pandemic, we may feel strongly about the injustice of George Floyd’s murder. We may be tempted to believe that there have been far too many senseless deaths, and that it is vain to hope for a better world. But I urge you not to succumb to despair. As a black man, I have felt personally the sting of racism. Instead of feeling defeated by it, I have sought ways to stand up to it: by mentoring minority students, opening people’s eyes to the benefits of diversity, and devoting my career to researching and addressing health inequities around the globe. I do so because it helps others, and it gives me hope that our country will find a way to reckon with the urgent need for change in how we treat and support one another. Let’s model that change, each of us, by treating each other with love and respect.
M. Roy Wilson