Yale School of Management Dean Kerwin K. Charles today (June 1) joined several B-school deans in issuing heartfelt denouncements of racism in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis that has led to widespread protests and riots throughout dozens of U.S. cities.
“The killing of Mr. George Floyd, an African American man, by the Minnesota police has shocked and deeply angered me, as it has doubtless done to you,” wrote Charles. “This event is, alas, but the most recent installment in a regrettable catalog of black men meeting violent deaths at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve them. The litany of these occurrences spans good and bad economic times, cuts across Democratic and Republican administrations, and respects no regional boundaries. Without a video recording, this event may well have followed another familiar pattern: a focus in the public discourse on the alleged precipitating actions of the victim (forever unable to defend himself), and skepticism or outright disbelief towards those who suggest wrongdoing inspired by racism on the part of the police.”
As one of the few deans of color at a major business school, Charles, who was born in Guyana, acknowledged that he has told the young people in his extended family to exercise caution if they ever come in contact with police. “To the anxieties that lead virtually all of the black families I know, including my own, to preach to their children, and especially their sons, the need for extreme caution when interacting with the police, is thus added frustration from the indignity of not having those fears understood or even believed,” added Charles in his email to the SOM community. “There is no gainsaying the video evidence of what happened to Mr. Floyd. Seeing the callous brutality of the act, the cavalier disregarding of his pleas for help, and the failure of multiple officers to intervene has helped us all to understand and believe. It has also enkindled righteous anger, not only in the black community but also among a broad cross-section of Americans repulsed by this event and by what it reveals about the policing experienced by many of their African American fellow citizens.”
‘WE DENOUNCE ACTS OF RACISM AND VIOLENCE’
Over the weekend, UVA Darden Dean Scott Beardsley became the first prominent dean to denounce the racism that led to the death of Floyd. Calling the death of Floyd “unjust” and “symbolic of the ongoing killing of and discrimination against black people and other minorities in the history of this country,” he maintained that the Darden School of Business condemns “racism in all its forms.”
Jeffrey R. Brown, dean of the Gies College of Business, wrote that “racism and discrimination are etched into our national conscience and affect every aspect of our lives. We denounce acts of racism and violence that are tearing apart our cities, towns, schools, and neighborhoods. Each of us has an ability and an obligation to do our part to make our world a better place.”
And Idie Kesner, dean of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, called Floyd’s death “an all-too-familiar example of the injustices against the African American community in this nation – an injustice that is grossly disproportionate in its impact on this community. It is an injustice so great that we are left wondering if, when and how we can heal as a country.”
‘WE AT SOM AFFIRM THE PAIN THAT CAUSES SO MANY TO GATHER AND RAISE THEIR VOICES’
Charles, an economist who has studied such topical issues as earnings and wealth inequality, race and gender labor market discrimination, and the intergenerational transmission of economic status, also condemned the looting and rioting that has broken out during protests.
“I think I speak for us all when I say that we at SOM affirm the pain that causes so many to gather and collectively raise their voices against racial injustice,” wrote Charles. “Regrettably, some in the large crowds of protesters have engaged in destructive or violent behavior. I think it is essential to condemn with firmness and in the clearest possible terms, looting, rioting, and general mayhem that threaten the wellbeing of others or their property. No group in this country has historically suffered greater harm from violent mob action than African-Americans, so those seeking to achieve racial justice for blacks have, it seems to me, a particular moral duty to not cause injury to others. I hope earnestly that any destructive behavior ceases…Things may be dispiriting at present, but I am very optimistic about the future….As these protests raging around the country indicate, Mr. Floyd’s death may be the catalyzing spur that prompts us–all of us–to ensure that racialized police treatment is consigned to history’s garbage pile.”