05.30.20 — Statement from Dean James Hackney Regarding the Death of George Floyd, Race and Inequalities

Dear Community,

James HackneyIn the middle of the night I was transfixed by the fires ablaze in Minneapolis. The next morning, I awoke to the shock of a CNN reporter of color being arrested, for no articulated rationale. Across the nation, protests are releasing the pain of witnessing racial atrocities—all of this in the midst of a pandemic.  

I write to you today as the dean of the law school, but also as an African American and child of South Central Los Angeles, who lived through the experience of the Rodney King beating and subsequent political contestation. Recent events, most shockingly the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, have yet again crystalized for me the burning issue of racism in America—writ large by the race and class inequalities obvious in the differing impacts of COVID-19.   

In many ways this pandemic has accelerated dynamics in society that had already built alarming momentum: the racial divide, stark class inequalities, and disparities in digital access to name only a few. This is all extremely disheartening. However, it also highlights the importance of our public interest mission and the work that we all do to promote social justice through co-ops, clinical programs, leadership in the legal profession and scholarship. We are in a unique position to help effectuate change. I urge us to take up this charge and engage in pro bono activities, pursue the public interest irrespective of your professional arena, and influence policy debates. We’re living a disturbing present haunted by a tragic history. For that reason, we need to re-commit ourselves to the work of building the futures we want for ourselves and generations to come.  

Members of the community are exploring ways for us to discuss and share our experiences about these issues—details of which will be forthcoming as they develop.

Take care,

James Hackney