The appalling pestilence of racism

To All Members of the University Community:

The persistent and appalling pestilence of racism continues to take lives in our nation’s communities, and far too many of our colleagues, classmates, friends and loved ones do not and cannot feel safe.

I am disgusted by the sickening actions that caused the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. We’ve seen additional videos documenting harm against African Americans in our own surrounding communities and other parts of our nation.

We also know that people who identify as black or African American represent about 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths in our state, but only 14 percent of our state’s population.

The effects of the evil of racism are universal. We cannot ignore this reality.

Though we experience and live with the pain of these tragedies differently, we all have a responsibility to advance justice, equality, peace and understanding. Our university community will never fully thrive without a constant shared commitment to these, our highest values. We must make this commitment together, not only as humans, but also as members of a society that has devalued and perpetuated violence against African Americans for more than 400 years.

We are planning a student town hall for Friday at noon that will allow us to come together in an attempt to heal and examine these essential issues. Panelists will include:

  • Riana Anderson, assistant professor, School of Public Health
  • Eugene Rogers, associate professor, School of Music, Theatre and Dance
  • Robert Sellers, chief diversity officer and vice provost of equity and inclusion
  • Eddie Washington, executive director, Division of Public Safety and Security
  • Darlena York, undergraduate student, Political Science and AfroAmerican and African Studies

I will be participating in this, as well, and our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will share details as soon as they are final.

In recent days, many leaders in our community have shared messages of support of one another and condemnation of these tragic deaths. I want to thank everyone in the U-M community who has spoken out, advanced peaceful protest, offered support and sent the message that we won’t tolerate racism and vile acts that end the lives of our fellow human beings. I also call upon all of us to commit to helping to create the changes we need to end structural racism in all of its forms.


Mark S. Schlissel, M.D., Ph.D.