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A Starting Point: Injustice and Healing

June 1, 2020 

Dear members of the Saint Louis University community, 

I am aware of the disappointment felt by some because we had not yet issued a response from the University and from me about the death of George Floyd, and the protests that have followed. 

Let me be abundantly clear, Saint Louis University mourns the loss of Mr. Floyd, and we stand in stark opposition to the systemic racism that took George Floyd from his loved ones. 

I want to assure the black members of our community that I see each and every one of you, and that I care about you. That we at Saint Louis University care about you, we see your pain, and we grieve with you. I am grateful for your presence and contribution to our university community. 

These faculty, staff, students, trustees and benefactors shape and transform us. Without them, as well as without each one of you who is reading this message, Saint Louis University loses meaning, purpose and any compelling reason to identify itself as Jesuit or Catholic. 

We know this pain and sense of mourning runs deeper than what happened on May 25 on that Minneapolis street. This is about the black lives lost and limited, not from natural causes, but from the sin that is racism. We mourn for Breonna Taylor. And Ahmaud Arbery. And Sandra Bland. And Philando Castile. And Michael Brown. And Vonderrit Myers, Jr. And tragically, the list goes on and on. 

This is about the countless, pervasive ways institutions, policies, programs, and systems are structured in a manner that oppresses people of marginalized identities. 

As a University and as individuals, there is much work to be done and we all have a part to play. You may not know how to start, and that is okay. But we must start. Read, listen, reach out to one another and offer empathy and support. Listen intensely and seek understanding. 

Every waking moment of the last several days, I have prayed about what I want to say to you and what we ought to do. One of the thoughts that I could not shake was this, “What did we say the last time this happened?” 

The last time. 

Statements are, quite simply, not enough. They were not enough the last time. And they will not be enough this time. But we are and can continue to do something before the next time. 

A group of institutional leaders, including several students, are discussing and working toward intentional, institutional next steps. 

As I have said before, “For those in our community who are feeling scared, tired, weary, or wondering when or if we will see the day where the hateful rhetoric and dehumanizing violence come to an end, you are not alone. Solidarity and community mean that we never have to face such evil alone.” 

That was true then. It is true now. And it always will be true. 

In solidarity, 

Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.