Skip to main content

To the H&S Community: Minneapolis, the U.S., and Our Community

May 31, 2020

Dear Stanford undergraduates,

COVID-19 has exacerbated and made visible another deadly disease that has plagued the United States for centuries: racism. Black and brown people have been dying in disproportionate numbers during the pandemic. And now we are especially anguished by the senseless death of George Floyd as well as the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. 

This is a difficult time for many but especially for our students of African American and African descent. I understand the fear, anger, exhaustion, and sadness that so many of you feel right now.

At this moment in time, it is also important that we reaffirm our core values and principles. In our community, there is no place for racism or for denying the equal worth of people regardless of their race, gender identity, religion, national origin, or socio-economic background. Across all of our differences, we are a common humanity, with every person entitled to equal dignity.

Our society and world have not yet achieved this fundamental principle of equality. “The arc of the moral universe,” celebrated by Martin Luther King Jr. as moving us toward justice, has been very long. Too long.

Here at Stanford, we must continually strive to live by the principle of equality and better realize it in our daily exchanges with each other and in our community. We may have different views about how to accomplish this, but we cannot deny this principle—it is foundational to our educational mission. 

Furthermore, Stanford has a role and a responsibility to create new knowledge and understanding that contributes to the improvement of our society and world—to bend the arc. And even in these dark times, when we are filled with despair, hope can be sustained by drawing on great moments and movements in the history of our country: Rosa Parks’ resounding refusal in 1955, the March on Washington in 1963, and the Freedom Rides involving brave students of all races pressing for greater racial equality—these movements have helped bend the arc of the moral universe toward greater justice and equality.

But I know that the path is challenging and the events of the last few weeks, as well as  over many years, have been very hard.

Please remember that there is a broad network of support services available in our community.

In addition, here are some resources for those who want to further understand some of the dimensions of racial injustice toward African Americans in the United States. This is a highly selective list and some of the authors provide different angles on the issues.

In the coming weeks, we will look for ways that our departments and programs can help our community process what has happened. I am also hopeful that our new curriculum on citizenship will provide a shared basis to discuss this and other issues that confront our society and world.

For now, as dean of H&S, I write to say, in this moment of concern and anguish, that the school is an ally in the battle for racial equality and that we stand with all of you who are grieving, saddened, and affected by these unjust and horrific incidents.


Debra Satz

Vernon R. and Lysbeth Warren Anderson Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences
Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society