A Call For Institutional Change

MHR Students and Alum Organize in the Wake of George Floyd's Murder
University of Minnesota

The tragic murder of George Floyd on May 25 th in our Minneapolis community has truly left an irreversible imprint on so many of our lives. Like many of you, we, students and alumni of the University of Minnesota’s Master of Human Rights program, were left disgusted, heartbroken and enraged, as we watched Mr. Floyd lose his life in such a degrading and inhumane manner at the hands of four Minneapolis Police Officers.

What the World witnessed on May 25 th , 2020 in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of Minneapolis, was the damning and violent manner in which structural oppression, institutional racism and unchecked histories manifest themselves in the form of abuse and human rights violations within our society.

Each of us were once again made to witness the gross violation and infringement upon a man’s right to liberty, right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and, ultimately, his right to life. Sadly, George Floyd’s murder is only a fragment of the wider system inequality and racism existing in the World today. A system which allows Brett Hankinson, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, to remain free, despite their individual roles in the murder of Breonna Taylor, almost 5 months ago.

In a statement released on June 2 nd , students and alumni of the Master of Human Rights program came together to stand in solidarity, anger, hope and resilience with all those fighting to attain justice for George Floyd, and all the people of color across the United States who have lost their life at the hands of systemic racism and oppression. We came together to hold ourselves accountable and outline our commitment to be actively anti-racist and work in any medium we can to systematically dismantle the white supremacist superstructure within the United States.

To that end, in the weeks following the release of this statement we as a collective, and as individuals, have begun work to put the sentiments we expressed in this statement into action. As the MHR program is a joint degree between the College of Liberal Arts and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and as both institutions play a critical role in educating and developing future leaders and changemakers, we felt it was critically important to focus our efforts towards these institutions.

On July 8th , we were able to speak with Humphrey School of Public Affairs Dean Laura Bloomberg, as we outlined a number of actionable steps we believe and hope the Humphrey School can take in order to actively promote anti-racist sentiments throughout every aspect of the institution.

In addition to this, many of the students within our community have been deep in conversation with Faculty across the university, seeking to help craft Fall 2020 courses in a manner which greater addresses and recognizes these problems of racial inequality and oppression.

Moreover, members within our community have also begun to look deeper into the curriculum of the classes offered to us in the program, to ensure we are learning from a wider array of voices and perspectives within the field. To ensure that the knowledge, voices and experiences of people of color are centered and championed within our learning. Thereby ensuring that a long-term commitment to anti-racist work, racial equity and inclusion is prevalent throughout the range of classes on offer to us as students.

On top of this, I could very easily write at length about so many within our network, who have been on the frontlines of the global movement and uprising we have seen in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. With so many, diligently working with non-profit organizations, not just within the Twin Cities and Minnesota, but across to world, to promote racial equality, equity and advocate for justice

However, despite this, I want to make clear that I write these words by no means as a celebration of ourselves. But as a reminder that the work which needs to be done, has not disappeared following a month or two of protesting and advocacy. Each of us, within the Masters of Human Rights Program, and everyone who reads these words, has a role to play and a job to do. All of us have a place within this movement which stretches further than raising awareness and having conversations. My writing of the steps being taken by our MHR community, is done only to highlight that work has been started, but is by no means finished. I am happy and proud of the work which has been done thus far, However, we should only ever be truly satisfied when we see actionable measures, yielding fruitful results.

We will only reach the point where Black, Indigenous People of Color across the United States, and the World, feel safe, valued and equal, if everyone is working together to systematically undo the vestiges of white supremacy and structural oppression which remain all too prevalent realities within our society. Thus, as you read these words, I urge you to once again look within and ask whether you can be doing more to advance this movement.

Graduate Students
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