In response to the tragic, brutal death of George Floyd in May, IU President Michael McRobbie released a statement on IU’s commitment to diversity and equity. The message contained various calls to action, such as an emphasis on diminishing inherent ignorance by staying informed on present-day racism and its connection to this country’s history of racist acts.
Additionally, the president said IU must provide an environment where students of color feel safe and respected. The values of the statement are of vital importance, but the statement is missing one, crucial statement in securing the safety and support for students of color — “Black Lives Matter.”
McRobbie’s statement is the epitome of performative activism if it does not conclude that Black lives do matter. IU cannot preach a necessity to provide a safe and respectful atmosphere for students of color while not doing their part in ensuring this. McRobbie’s silence is deafening to the Black community at IU. In a time of severe police brutality and exposed systemic racism, how is a student of color supposed to feel represented by an administration who will not state their life matters?
In the wake of blatant injustice, it is the job of the university to directly display its support for its affected students, but IU has failed to respond effectively to support its Black students and victims of police brutality, like Breonna Taylor.
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency technician, was mercilessly murdered in an act of police brutality. On March 13, Taylor was awakened by a loud knock on the door. Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, called out in response to the noise but seconds later were met with the police breaking their door off its hinges. Walker fired a shot.
The police responded by shooting Taylor five times. One officer, Detective Brett Hankison, even shot 10 rounds blindly into the apartment.
There has been no justice for Taylor. The police officers involved in the murder have not been indicted for her death, but instead, Hankinson was charged Sept. 23 with wanton endangerment. One officer was fired, while the rest are on administrative leave.
The Bloomington community is making up for McRobbie’s silence. Thousands of students and Bloomington residents took to the streets on June 5, the day that would have been Taylor’s 27th birthday. The protest ended with inspiring speeches from Black activists, as thousands sat around the Monroe County Courthouse to watch and support.
The phrase, “No cops. No KKK. No fascist U.S.A.” came from the mouths of the protesters with an unapologetic force. The echo of the message turned the heads of local Bloomington residents dining on Kirkwood, inspired people to join and prompted several honks in support from various passersby. They filled People’s Park with chalk messages such as “ACAB” and “Say Her Name.”
The actions of its residents is not to say that Bloomington should not be condemned in various aspects. The Bloomington Police Department continues to hold authorization in “no-knock warrants,” the same procedure leading to the murder of Taylor. BPD Chief Mike Diekhoff has denied the existence of systemic racism in his department, a bold statement from a majority-white department. Additionally, BPD’s $21 million dollar budget comprises nearly 20% of the Bloomington general funds budget, even while excluding pensions.
The systems of Bloomington are unabashedly flawed, but the people, students and residents have risen above to make a change by continuously protesting.
Breonna Taylor, along with countless other members of the Black community, are the victims of abhorrent, systemic racism held in U.S. police departments. There is no justice served in IU’s deathly silence in response to injustice. As Bloomington students and residents continue to shout “Black Lives Matter,” IU’s complicity continues to fail the Black community. Black lives matter, and IU needs to say it.
Russ Hensley (he/him) is a sophomore studying mathematics, political science and international law. He is a curator for TEDxIndianaUniversity, a member of IU Student Government and a member of the Hutton Honors College.