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Standing Together With Our Black Community

George Floyd, before dying on a Minneapolis street with a knee pressed into his neck, shared an experience with millions of other Americans during the pandemic: He had lost his job and was looking for work.

George Floyd also shared another bitter and seemingly unsolvable experience, one reaching over decades and tragically all too common for young Black men and women: He died because of the actions of a white police officer.

“I can’t breathe,” he said, and his words reverberated around the world, bringing anguished tears to millions.

We all are experiencing some combination of shock, outrage, pain and fear, and we ask: When will this stop? Will it ever stop? Each death reignites the shock and outrage. And each death renews the pain and fear that have been part of the African American and Black experience for 400 years.

We stand with the peaceful protesters around the world who are angry and tired and unwilling to wait patiently for reforms that never seem to come. This nation’s crowning achievement is the robust protection of one’s right to be heard, to assemble and protest the actions of those in power. It is only fitting that this right be exercised to protest America’s longstanding and enduring sin of racial apartheid.

The leadership of the UNC General Alumni Association supports The University of North Carolina in denouncing these atrocities and supports holding accountable those responsible. We recognize the difficult, stressful and heroic work of our nation’s law enforcement officers. However, we all must hold accountable officers who use excessive force against our citizens, especially for discriminatory ends.

There are many among us who realize we have the privilege of learning about racism rather than being victims of it. We can never fully comprehend the anguish, outrage and fear our Black and Brown brothers and sisters experience every day. We are both the parents of adult sons, and we have never laid awake at night frightened that a chance encounter with a police officer would take them from us. Our University has grappled with its own racial history going back centuries, and as legacies of that history endure today, lessons in race and memory have entered our classrooms. The association today supports African American students in crucial ways, and for 40 years it has supported the Black Alumni Reunion. BAR, the University’s oldest and largest affinity reunion, was created and thrives on the faith that the future will be different from the past, when African Americans were not welcome at our University. We acknowledge that the University has made serious missteps in the recent past, but we resolve to learn from them. The GAA is committed to the promise of a truly inclusive future.

Black Lives Matter to us. We will help lead and speak truth to our reality. We will speak up for meaningful dialogue and for solutions. We will speak to each other, and we will use our lives to seek justice together.

J. Rich Leonard ’71 (’73 MEd)
Chair, Board of Directors
The University of North Carolina General Alumni Association

Douglas S. Dibbert ’70
President,
The University of North Carolina General Alumni Association