Dear Xavier Community,
We are failing to live up to our Jesuit Values. I write this with no more tears to cry. My heart is heavy with disappointment, rage and sadness in response to the recent killings of innocent Black people at the hands of racists agents masquerading as neighbors and law enforcement. The wrongful deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arberry, Dreasjon Reed and Tony McDade are a stark reminder to us Black people of the fatal dangers we face every day, just trying to live.
George Floyd, who was nonresistant, died handcuffed with Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee crushing his neck as he pleaded for his life. George Floyd used his last breaths to send love to his family. Meanwhile, other officers assisted in holding Floyd down and served as a barrier to prevent citizens from intervening with the slaughter.
Breonna Taylor was resting in her home when plain-clothed officers ambushed her and her boyfriend, blasting off over 20 rounds and hitting Taylor eight times. These officers were searching for drugs and money in the home of two people with no criminal history.
Ahmaud Arberry was jogging in his neighborhood when Roddy Bryan, Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael followed him and shot him in cold blood, after aggressively confronting him for a crime he did not even fit the description for.
Draesjon Reed was shot multiple times in the back on Facebook Live after fleeing the police, with one officer looking down at his body and snarkily saying “Looks like it’s gonna be a close casket service.”
Tony McDade was a suspect in an investigation, but was shot in cold blood multiple times by a White officer without hearing “stop” or “freeze” during his pursuit.
These deaths are awful and tragic but no surprise to me. The motif in all these tragedies is institutionalized racism through the form of law enforcement.
The same fate might have happened to Haley Dickerson ’19 outside Smith Hall when she was pulled over by Cincinnati Police while riding her bike.
On the night of March 27, 2019, Haleywas simply riding her bike from her night class in the Innovation Center to get a ride from her friend to her off-campus house. As she saw the glaring red and blue lights, she simply moved to the sidewalk beside Smith to get out their way. Haley did not think they were pulling her over; she had committed no crime and was on her campus. The officers then commanded her to get off her bike. Haley froze in initial shock.
As I looked across from the CLC, I left my study spot with some friends to check out the situation. We went out to see Haley being berated, badgered and goaded by two daunting CPD officers. Haley was only further confused and even more frightened. As we stood in solidarity, we assured Haley we were in her corner. The officers took her bike and tried to force her in the back of their car “for her safety.” How is she safer in the custody of the threat, rather than her own campus?
Haley was in tears as they put her in their car for further questioning. She had already given them her driver’s license and Xavier ID. As they were forcing her into the car she began recording the interaction, but as soon as the female officer saw Haley’s phone out she snatched it from saying, “If you can’t tell the truth you can’t say anything!” XUPD arrived, talked to the officers and released Haley after issuing her a $250 ticket for “running a red light” on her bike.
So as we see the PROTESTS (because I refuse to call these exercises of civil liberties riots) unfold, let us see with our spirits and listen with our hearts. Black people and our true allies are crying for justice and institutional change. We are sick and tired of being unfairly targeted, attacked and lynched at the hands of bigots and racists under the guise of law enforcement and the neighborhood watch. We are banging on the doors of ruling institutions demanding to be seen, heard and acknowledged. We are not coming locked and loaded with rifles, submachine guns and Glocks demanding to get haircuts or tattoos and for gyms to open. We are not destroying property because our team won the Super Bowl or the “Big Game.” We are simply asking these same power structures to STOP KILLING US!
As Xavier stands still and silent, we as a societal lighthouse go dim with apathy for marginalized people. We are showing that we ARE NOT Men and Women for and with others. My lasting question to you Xavier is, “Are you who you say you are?”
With a Broken Heart,
Desmond C. Varner Jr.
Former SGA VP
PS: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiesel (Nobel Laureate)