The following is a letter sent to the Mitchell Hamline community on Wednesday by the undersigned leaders below:
Dear students, staff, and faculty —
For many of us, Tuesday’s guilty verdicts in the Derek Chauvin trial provided a feeling of relief and a moment to breathe. For many, the verdicts also shined a light on the continued trauma of even having to be anxious that the outcome would be different. The decision seemed just, the legal process performed well under unprecedented public scrutiny, and communities came together to mourn, grieve, and answer questions about what is next.
But we know this is just a moment. We know that deadly encounters with police fall disproportionately on Black and Brown people and that officers are not often held to account. George Floyd’s family got to feel the sense of accountability, but too often families don’t. Philando Castile’s family didn’t, nor did Breonna Taylor’s. Another recent Black victim of a fatal encounter with local police, Daunte Wright, is being laid to rest Thursday down the road from our school.
As a law school, we are committed to educating lawyers who will enter a world weighed down by systemic racism—in the legal system, including our own school, as well as in all major societal institutions—and work not only for accountability, but for justice. We will continue to embrace our role in helping not just our students but the community at large understand and explore issues involving the law, race, and the possibilities for reform.
We know that more must be done to seek justice and make this verdict more than a moment. One step we are taking starts this weekend, when we host the first community listening session in a long-term project called Truth and Action: Addressing Systemic Racism in the Criminal Justice System in Minnesota, through which we hope to be a partner in creating systemic change and breaking down longstanding barriers to justice.
Many of us felt our spirits lift Tuesday for a moment, but for some the weight returned quickly, especially for the Black community at Mitchell Hamline. That’s because the trauma continues, just as we know the work continues. Please take care of yourselves and one another, and please do not hesitate to reach out to any one of us for any assistance or support we can provide.
Anthony Niedwiecki, President and Dean
Lynn LeMoine, Dean of Students
Sharon Van Leer, Senior Program Manager, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Rick Petry, Program Manager, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Deanna Burns, Chair, DEI Activities and Events Committee
Amber Goodwin, President, Mitchell Hamline Student Bar Association
Aretha Haynes, President, Mitchell Hamline Black Law Students Association
Nu Vang, Secretary, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association