Message From Robert Benjamin Assistant Vice President for Multicultural Affairs and Dean of Students

Jun 8, 2020

George Floyd was murdered in front of the whole world. A senseless and cavalier act of a police officer, the most recent senseless murder of a black person in America. An act and symbolism that raises deep pain, brings to the surface the ugly reality of weaponized racism that has been part of American society for a long, long time. We are angry, we are grieved.

These murders are the ultimate. We are faced daily with daily encounters that demean and devalue a people, make us invisible – driving while black, picnicking while black, walking while black, riding a bicycle while black, bird watching while black. On the systemic level we are faced with inferior school systems, housing discrimination, drinking – yes, drinking water poisoning, environmental racism and a criminal justice system that reflects the racist legacy of this country. The anger has been building.

I am a black man, the father of five now adult children, two women, three men and grandfather of six. One of my grandsons is a sixteen year old 6’2’’ prime target for bigoted police. My wife and I fear for their very lives. We have had to train, like other black parents, our precious ones in the ways of “coming home”. We too are severely angry!

We all know the theme song of the civil rights struggle, a song whose history I respect in the way it connects to the legacy of the struggle for civil rights. The song is “We Shall Overcome”. However, I ask the question, when is “Someday”? Is it an urgent call or do we keep “Someday” at a comfortable distance while basking in the luxury of ignorance? Well, no more! What role do I have, do you, do we have in making someday a reality?

I believe that we should not be asking the question, “Where is God”? If we were to be honest, God is asking, “Where are you!” Where are you! What are you and I going to commit to doing to end both individual and systemic racism that destroys lives, debilitates families, destroys communities, devalues an entire people?

Presently and in the coming days we will commence a series to include:

  • A collaborative Call to Prayer and Fasting for Change that occurred on Sunday, June 7th
  • Thursday June 11 at 7 p.m. – a forum for students to share thoughts, reactions to recent events. (This session has the potential to run for more than one occurrence)
  • Forum for staff and faculty is planned with dates to come
  • Sunday June 14, BSU is sponsoring a prayer vigil and rally on Wollaston Beach at 3:30 pm
  • We will provide on line opportunities to learn more about systemic racism, implicit bias and justice.

As individuals and as a community we are to be involved in urgent and consequential action. I look forward to us standing up and be counted in the struggle for justice in the tradition of Moses, of Esther, of Tecumseh, of Harriet, of Douglas, of Martin, of Chavez.

Robert Benjamin
Assistant Vice President for Multicultural Affairs and Dean of Students