On the searing symbolism of George Floyd

Like so many of you, I am outraged at the sight, on national television, of the senseless killing of George Floyd. Losing his breath under the knee of a police officer, his death is searingly symbolic of how members of our black community are held down by the very institutions meant to raise us up.

We all should try to understand the depth of the anger and trauma people of color are feeling at this time. The fight against deeply rooted discrimination stretches across generations. Even laws—without action—are just words on paper. Where will it end?

I hope we can turn our anger into meaningful, lasting change. We need to build up, not burn down. As Dr. Martin Luther King said generations ago, “Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots.”

That is why we must not waiver from our commitment to equity, inclusion and excellence in the School District of Lancaster. Specifically to our black male students and staff, I say: We’ve got your backs.

Closing learning gaps, eliminating disproportionate suspensions and raising our cultural competence can be the foundations of a stronger, more equitable community. We embrace the central role our schools play in lifting the historical and institutional weights from students of color.

Writing about our equity work in February, I reflected on Dr. King’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” addressed to white clergy who encouraged him to wait for the courts to settle injustice. “This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never,’” he wrote, adding, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We cannot wait.