Dear colleagues and students,

George Floyd died one week ago today, handcuffed and pinned to the ground by Officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department. The video of the arrest shows Officer Chauvin with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck while Mr. Floyd pleads with the officer, telling him that he is in pain and that he cannot breathe, before he calls out for his mother. Officer Chauvin kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than two minutes after Mr. Floyd became non-responsive.

Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead at the Hennepin County Medical Center a little over an hour after he was first approached by Minneapolis police officers. He was forty-six years old. He was a son, a brother, a friend, the father of two daughters, and a grandfather to a three-year-old girl. He died telling Officer Chauvin, “I can’t breathe.” He died saying to Officer Chauvin, “please, please, please.” He died calling out to his deceased mother.

Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and he and the three other Minneapolis police officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death have been fired. While it is commendable that these actions have been taken, it remains heartbreaking and infuriating that Mr. Floyd’s pleas were met with such callous disregard by Officer Chauvin and his fellow officers. This is made all the more heartbreaking and infuriating by the fact that Mr. Floyd is not the first Black man to die while telling a police officer, “I can’t breathe.”

We can and we must do better. This is required of every single one of us and every single institution in this country. Justice demands that we all do our part to confront and overcome the legacy of bigotry that motivates an Officer Chauvin to put his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck and keep it there as Mr. Floyd’s life is extinguished.

This institution and its people—faculty, staff, students, and alumni—have worked and will continue to work to stamp out bigotry and intolerance, to make our campus and our communities welcoming and safe for all. Indeed, we demonstrated our willingness to be in this fight together nearly two years ago with the Paint It Black movement. Drake University is committed to equity and inclusion and we will—through education, scholarship, service, and advocacy—strive to be part of whatever it takes to ensure that the right to life and liberty is not denied to anyone because of the color of her or his skin.