Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Dear Duke Divinity School Community,

Peace be with you. In this time of Easter hope and persistent racial injustice, the greeting of the risen Christ to his disciples bears being heard, pondered, and repeated again by his followers and all people of goodwill. As a community gathered and empowered for the Prince of Peace, we lament the history of violence by law enforcement against Black people with impunity and the contemporary violence that too often goes without accountability. We grieve the personal and communal pain that exacerbates the tragedies of violence and pray for repentance, relief, and restoration. We confess the complicity of so many who tolerate and accept violence against citizens and residents and commit ourselves to being agents of righteousness and repair.

We honor and recognize the jury’s decision in the trial of Derek Chauvin. We respect the rule of law, including decisions made by juries and the courts, recognizing that many people are gratified and relieved by the jury’s decision in this case. We know that the resolution of this matter will re-open wounds for many simply by recalling the tragedy of his death, along with so many other deaths, and the centuries-long horrors of racism and systemic injustice. We pray for those who have been directly and indirectly harmed and hope this decision will be one step toward equity and healing. It is important for all of us, especially faculty and staff, to be aware of the effects of the Floyd murder and countless others on the mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing of people of color, especially among our students. We acknowledge the pain of police and vigilante violence against Black people and people of color and the vulnerability with which all Black people live when encountered by law enforcement. We invite students to reach out to faculty and staff if there are ways we can be supportive going forward.

We are grateful for President Price’s message and his leadership in moving Duke forward on these issues. We in Duke Divinity School have been working on issues of anti-racism, racial justice, and cultural competency for some time, and have re-doubled our efforts over the past year. While our primary focus has been the legacy of anti-Black racism, we are also mindful of the challenges that Asians and Asian-Americans and other people of color have endured—especially in recent years. We invite you to visit our website (https://divinity.duke.edu/initiatives/racial-justice) as we continue on a journey of anti-racism, racial justice, and cultural competency.

We know we have a long way to go as we work together to bear a more faithful witness to Christ in all that we are and all that we do. The marker of this trial, and the upcoming one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s killing, are both reminders of the importance of vigilance and action on the part of Duke Divinity School and all of us as we move forward to be the kind of community that works for God’s justice and recognizes and embodies “the things that make for peace” (Luke 19:42).

Grace and Peace in Christ,

L. Gregory Jones, Dean
Edgardo Colón-Emeric, Incoming Dean