Dear friends and colleagues,

I’ve been thinking a lot about our community and — especially — our Black community members today. I also haven’t been able to stop myself from thinking about what feels like a never-ending series of injustices and crises that have led us — once again — to a day like this one.

George Floyd.

Breonna Taylor.

Ahmaud Arbery.

These killings made national news but they are far from isolated incidents; they represent deeply-rooted racism that exists in this country.

Speaking only for myself, the overwhelming response from people across the country to the murder of George Floyd is both necessary and appropriate. Too often, the actions of those charged with protecting public safety are causing Black Americans to lose their lives. It’s sickening, and it simply must stop. Black lives matter.

As a white person, I recognize that I won’t ever fully understand the profound pain and heartbreak that Black people endure in this country. My mix of sadness and anger is, nevertheless, real. Yours is also, which is why I want to turn our collective despair into action.

The leadership team in Erb and I are doing what we can to push ourselves — and SEAS, Ross, and University leadership — to take more meaningful measures to listen to, and to stand with, our Black students, alumni, friends and colleagues this week and, importantly, into the future. We are also telling them that emails (like mine today), or the occasional town hall following a crisis are not enough; we must instead make it our daily goal to fundamentally reshape our university’s and our community’s priorities and policies when it comes to diversity, privilege, and institutional racism.

For our part, the Erb Institute will redouble its efforts to fight for racial justice. As you know, my days as Erb Director are numbered. I challenge whoever is named as the next Director of the Erb Institute to make fighting injustice and institutional racism a daily priority. I will do the same.

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything I — or a member of the Erb Institute team — can do for you personally, or if you just want to talk. I am frustrated that my reach only goes so far and that I, like so many others, must respond to the injustices of today with words instead of actions. But for as long as I direct the Erb Institute, I will do everything that I can to promote and safeguard the dignity, rights, and voice of every person in our community, especially those who need it most.

— Dr. Joe Árvai, Erb Institute Faculty Director