George Floyd and Anti-Blackness


A message on behalf of the College’s leadership in response to the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody on May 26.

Dear Occidental Community,

I write to you on behalf of the College’s leadership in response to the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died in police custody on May 26. George’s life was taken by police officer Derek Chauvin, who had received 18 prior conduct complaints prior to his altercation with George. This moment is compounded by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Tony McDade and too many others, and brutally illustrates the tragic consequences of anti-blackness that persist in our society.

George Floyd’s death bears witness to the reality that systemic anti-black racism shapes the ways in which different communities are policed in this country. As protests continue in the city of Minneapolis, Washington D.C., here in Los Angeles, and elsewhere across the country, we are reminded of the words Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. offered more than half a century ago, “In the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?” Indeed, we need to continue to examine and respond to what we may be failing to hear at Occidental.

To the Black community at Oxy, the retraumatization that you suffer when events like this take place is not lost on us. We see you and we stand with you during this incredibly difficult time. Given the isolation associated with the safer-at-home restrictions, coming directly on the heels of the tragic death of two of our Black students, it is only natural to feel multiple emotions simultaneously—anger, hopelessness, loneliness, and exhaustion.

I’d like to note that the Equity and Inclusion Group (EIG) is continuing its work this summer. The EIG is actively working on a number of initiatives, including exploring a process that will lead to the development of a College-wide strategic plan related to issues of equity and justice. Senior leadership at the College—including incoming President Harry Elam—are fully in support of this. And while the development of a College-wide strategic plan will take some time, we remain committed to taking immediate steps to take account of, and address, Oxy’s implication in anti-blackness here on our own campus. In particular, under the leadership of Chris Arguedas, director of the Intercultural Community Center, and with support by many across campus, we have been working on a Black Advocacy Plan that will soon provide additional tangible initiatives designed to support the Black community at Oxy—students in particular.

The ICC, the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life (ORSL), and the office of Student Leadership, Involvement & Community Service (SLICE) are committed to providing spaces for students to express themselves freely. These offices are working together to identify policies and practices that promote racial justice on our campus and for the communities they serve. If you would like to speak to someone directly, please reach out to ICC Director Chris Arguedas at carguedas@oxy.edu, to ORSL Director Susan Young at young@oxy.edu, or SLICE Director Marcus A. Rodriguez at mrodriguez6@oxy.edu.

In addition, Emmons Wellness Center counselors are trained at providing counseling services for identity-based trauma. If you’re interested in speaking to a counselor, please call Emmons at (323) 259-2657 or email emmons@oxy.edu.

Other resources:

The ICC and ORSL have prepared some resources for individuals who may be interested in taking action in response to the tragic murder of George Floyd. We invite you to visit  bit.ly/3derUmr. This links to petitions on Change.org, TheActionPac.com, MoveOn.org, and includes additional anti-racist resources.

For those interested in donations, please visit:

As I engage in ongoing conversations with senior leadership at the College, please know that we all stand in community and solidarity with all those fighting anti-blackness. And we’re collectively committed to making progress in this critical area.

Please take good care.

Rob Flot
Dean of Students