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A Jury Deliberates and Our Nation Sits on Edge

April 19, 2021

Dear members of our Saint Louis University community,

As we await the Chauvin trial verdict in Minneapolis, our nation sits on edge.

Despite Minneapolis being nearly 600 miles from St. Louis, there is a particular pain elicited by the death of George Floyd and the traumatic events that have followed in its wake. Modern technology has made the world readily accessible. Our phones and tablets transport us to outside the Cup Foods convenience store and transformed our living rooms into the gallery of the Hennepin County courthouse.

This tragedy, the ensuing protests, and the memories they elicit are hauntingly familiar. The people of St. Louis share a dreadful bond with Minneapolis because we’ve been there.

Now, along with a spate of mass killings and police-involved shootings, amidst pandemic exhaustion and despair, these events feel as though they may cleave the very fabric of our union.

I challenge all of us to step outside of the paradigm of the trial — to step away from closing arguments and away from worrying about the outcome — and, instead, contend with the reality that the world — that we — repeatedly watched George Floyd’s last labored breaths of sacred life on earth.

This is undeniable suffering. This is unbearable suffering. This is suffering that can break you, that can break families and communities. This is the same suffering that’s been shared with me by my friends and colleagues. I have listened to particularly wrenching stories of suffering from the Black and Brown members of our SLU community.

Amidst the Easter season, Christians are called upon in a particular way to reflect on and engage with the ultimate human suffering in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Entering into Christ’s suffering means embracing our broken world for what it truly is and in doing so, suffering with every child of God. This compassion is the heart of the Jesuit Charism, not a faith of just “thoughts and prayers” but a faith that does justice. And it will be in full view during an all-faiths vigil at the Clock Tower on Wednesday, April 21 at 3 p.m.

In the days and weeks ahead, each of us will face renewed internal challenges as we must determine how our individual values and the values of our Saint Louis University community compel our action or our inaction, and promote our engagement or our disengagement.

When we are faced with a choice to add to the rancor destined to play out on the airwaves and via social media, do we cave to doing what is easy? Or do we lend our voice in the pursuit of justice for the indisputable inequities created and perpetuated by a long history of violence and racism against generations of people of color?

Regardless of the verdict rendered by the jury, one thing remains clear — the struggle for justice and beloved community remains unfinished. Regardless of the verdict, we must commit to solidarity with the marginalized and the excluded; we must work incessantly to be people for and with others — in their sufferings and their joys.

It is the only approach that will ultimately save us all.

Sincerely,

Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.
President