The national unrest and uneasiness following the murder of George Floyd has hit home in California and with the majority of programs sending messages of support and solidarity across social media (Stanford was no different there), Cardinal athletic director Bernard Muir penned an open letter to the Stanford family.
His message is a powerful one.
Dear Stanford Athletics Family:
It was one week ago today that a Minneapolis Police Department officer placed his knee on the neck of George Floyd, ultimately resulting in his tragic death. One week of anger, pain, confusion and determination. I understand the emotions behind the peaceful protests across American cities and support those efforts. I do not, however, condone the destruction of property or endangering the lives of others.
Since I first watched the horrific video of the arrest, my mind has taken me on a journey through my own life. It starts back in 1968 in Queens, and continues through a childhood in Gainesville (FL), onto Brown University in Rhode Island, and then stops in Atlanta, Athens (OH), Auburn (AL), Dallas, Kansas City, Indianapolis, South Bend, Washington, D.C., Wilmington (DE) and now Palo Alto. Yet regardless of where I have lived, there have been constant reminders that I am a black American.
Those reminders are both subtle and overt.
They come in the stares of shop owners or being escorted out of a men’s clothing store simply because I look suspicious.
They come when I am followed, pulled over and questioned by police (multiple times) for no other reason than the color of my skin.
They come when my oldest daughter, about to graduate from Stanford, looks at me with tears in her eyes, fearing what the future may hold for her.
I am one of the fortunate ones. Through athletics, hard work, experience and trails blazed by those who have gone before me, I have been able to rise to the top of my chosen profession, working at one of the world’s preeminent universities overseeing an athletics department widely considered the best in the country. Yet there is not a day that goes by when I am not reminded of my color.
Like so many others, I have struggled to find the right thoughts, the perfect words, the sage advice that I can share to make things better. But I realized I have been searching for an answer to the wrong question.
Earlier today, I engaged in a thoughtful, powerful and candid conversation with several of our student-athletes, many of them black, who sought leadership and a listening ear – not necessarily the answers. I realized that I have a responsibility to them, to my two daughters, to my wife, to the black community and to our society to do my part. And here is what I have come up with so far:
We need to be the very best people that we can be.
We need to treat others with the same respect that we demand.
We need to find our voices to inspire the younger generations.
We need to do what is right, all of the time.
We need to use the gifts that God has given us and those we have developed during our time at Stanford University to make a better society for everyone.
We need to be resilient, strong and resolute in our pursuit of justice.
We need to identify and challenge even the most subtle hints of racism, prejudice and oppression.
When I watched the violent arrest of George Floyd last week, my first thought was, that could be me. I was angry, scared and unsure. But I found my footing in talking with my daughters, engaging with our student-athletes and realizing that I didn’t have to have all the answers. I just had to be willing to listen and to lend my own voice to the cause.
Please know that I am here for all of you to listen, to comfort and to provide an outlet for your emotions. But I am also more committed than ever to using my platform and privilege to amplify the voices of those who are not being heard. Though much has changed in our country since my birth in Queens fifty-two years ago, some of the uglier elements of our society – including racism – have not. Let us all, no matter our differences, do our part to ensure that meaningful and lasting change happens. We are in this together.