Statement on Conviction in Murder of George Floyd

Nearly one year ago, George Floyd was murdered in plain sight.  This was by no means the first time a Black person was murdered at the hands of the police.  Perhaps because this tragedy occurred in the wake of so many others, because the apparent indifference to a human life on the part of the arresting officers was so plain, and because it was captured on video by a brave Black teenager, George Floyd’s death came to symbolize everything wrong with a deeply flawed system. For many white Americans, it finally became impossible to ignore or refute this fact. This painful fact was, of course, already well understood by people of color, especially by Black individuals and communities in this country.

We have worked together to keep a focus on police violence and brutality over the course of the academic year in response to a long string of tragic losses of, and assaults on, Black lives. We also came together to take action, learn, and engage in meaningful dialogue and reflection on how to create a more just and anti-racist society, and profession. (See the “past events” section on this web page.) Many of you—students, staff and faculty across both UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee campuses—were involved in these efforts, and your passion for and commitment to real change have created energy and momentum….and hope.

Yesterday’s verdict convicting Derek Chauvin on all counts brings a brief moment of relief. However, this outcome of accountability cannot be construed as evidence that the current systems are fair or just. They are not. We have a lot of work to do. And a lot of systemic change and healing that still needs to happen.

As three leaders of schools of social work, we are enormously proud of our students and colleagues for all of the hard work you have put in this past year. We know it took an incredible emotional toll on so many. We have agonized for and worried about all of you, and we have seen others’ and felt our own exhaustion, stress, anger, and grief.  We have also seen the support you have given each other throughout this incredibly traumatic year. Thank you for your role in that.

We look forward to working together with all of you to continue pursuing critically needed systems change, and creating and implementing solutions to some of the toughest problems this country faces.

Kristen S. Slack, PhD, Professor, Interim Director (outgoing), and PhD Program Chair
Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Stephanie Robert, PhD, Professor, Director (incoming)
Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work
University of Wisconsin-Madison

David J. Pate, Jr., PhD
Associate Professor and Chair of the Social Work Department
Helen Bader School of Social Welfare
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee