4.21.21 | Dear students: Reacting to the tragic killing of Ma’Khia Bryant
I had hoped that yesterday’s guilty verdicts convicting former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of the murder of George Floyd would bring a moment of some relief. I was not fooled into thinking that the just conclusion to that case would solve systemic racism, take the place of still-needed policing reforms, or even cure the heartache of George Floyd’s family. But, it was a small moment of accountability. Unfortunately, the moment was too small, too brief. Just minutes before the jury’s decision was issued, Black teenager Ma'Khia Bryant was shot and killed by police right here in Columbus.
It is always tragic when a child is killed. We do not yet know the full details of her killing, and I ask that we all give our city officials the opportunity to investigate. But, let me be clear: regardless of the situation that unfolded yesterday afternoon, it should not be a death sentence to be Black in America.
There are reforms underway here in Columbus, including a new Civilian Review Board launched this month, but it is apparent that even greater and swifter action is needed. One thing is evident: Whether it was the police in the moment of her death or the systematic racism that put Ma'Khia Bryant at a disadvantage from the moment she was born, we as a society—as a community here in Columbus—failed her. And that fact is something we all must grapple with.
Franklin County has one of the highest rates of fatal police shootings in the U.S., but we also suffer from high rates of poverty and infant mortality, and Columbus is the second-most economically segregated city in the U.S., with the racial disparities underlying each of these statistics strikingly high. In many ways, Columbus is a tale of two cities.
I understand that many of you, particularly our Black students, may be feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, angry and frustrated by this seemingly unending pattern of injustice and pain. You may be hurting right now. If you need to talk to someone about everything going on, please reach out to our Counseling & Wellness Center.
You matter. Your voice is powerful. If you choose to protest, please do so peacefully and with consideration for your own safety. Use your voice to speak out against the racial injustices you see around you. Use your creative talents to help make our city a better place for ALL its residents. And, if you’re looking for more specific things you can do, consider stepping outside of your comfort zone. Here is a resource listing nine actions you can take to fight against racism.
My hope is that, together, we at Columbus College of Art & Design can be a collective force for change, a resource of creative abundance in our community, and an agent for peace. But, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but the existence of justice for all people.”