Shaw University President Dillard: Let Us Work Together for Justice

The death of Mr. George Floyd, the latest in a terrible series of events, deeply disturbs me. I am distressed that just blocks from Shaw University, the HBCU where I serve as president, our neighbors woke on Sunday morning to scenes of destruction and loss. The rioting that occurred in Raleigh, around our state, and all over America is a symptom of an illness that has gone untreated for far too long. Racism and injustice are the disease, and if we look only at the symptoms, nothing will ever change.
No one wants or encourages violence. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded on the principles of non-violence on the Shaw campus. The spirit of SNCC lives on in and through the mission and values of Shaw University, and the prospect of physical violence and destruction of property does not align with those values. But sadly, we cannot be surprised at the response to the outrage over the senseless death of George Floyd at the hands of one whose job was to “protect and serve.” In a statement denouncing the officers involved, Shaw alumnus, Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said, “The African American community is crying out for justice, equality, reform, and answers.”

According to Dr. King, “A riot is the language of the unheard…And what has America failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met… And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

The university I lead can host social justice forums, we can stage vigils, we can launch social media campaigns urging peace, our executives and trustees can publish op-eds, and our students can lift their voices. But great strides in social justice have never been made by any one side acting alone. Is it not finally time for all people of conscience and good-will to come together and speak out when they see others being deprived of their rights?
True social justice will elude us until those whose skin color does not cause them to be targeted for unwarranted seizure, harassment, or even death stand up and declare, “STOP-No more!” No meaningful change can or will occur without the concerted, sustained effort of all our citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity, social standing or political belief. Philippians 2:4 tells us, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

I urge you, let us work together with empathy and determination to create a better future – for all.

With hope and confidence,
Paulette R. Dillard, Ph.D.
President and CEO