A Message on George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Race and Justice from Dean Diller


Dear Fordham Law Community,

I write in response to the recent and tragic killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, and the protests across our nation that have followed. I join in Father McShane’s eloquent statement condemning our country’s long history of racism, particularly against African Americans, that runs so deep in our society and continues in many manifestations. He highlighted the special role of a Jesuit institution in educating to provide both knowledge that prepares students to address racism and values that make clear the imperative to do so.

I wanted to highlight another dimension that is specific to our mission and community at Fordham Law. As law students and lawyers, we have a special commitment to work toward the principle of equal justice under law – the principle that demands that African Americans are entitled to live safely and without fear; the principle that makes evident that New Yorkers should be able to enjoy the pleasures of Central Park without harassment or fear of arrest. The events of the last weeks reinforce that which is apparent in the string of injustices that continue to happen both here in New York and throughout our nation – much work needs to be done.

The disproportionate suffering borne by communities of color during the current pandemic are a reminder that the impacts of racism infuse our institutions and social structures. It is important to condemn the appalling acts of a police officer in Minnesota and other specific instances, but it is also important to recognize that the problem runs deep and requires broader social transformation. This year alone, at least five black lives were senselessly taken, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, George Floyd, and Tony McDade, and we should remember each one as we seek to address the injustices against them. Too often have we seen the outrage immediately following the loss of a life wain soon thereafter, rather than translate into the pursuit of justice. We have to make sure that our commitment to end this cycle of senseless death endures.

As a Law School, it is our responsibility to foster understanding of not only the successes of our institutions and our democracy, but the failings as well. For unless we understand the shortcomings, it is impossible to move forward. Over the past few days, many across the country have come together in a show of unity against the loss of black lives, and as Fr. McShane wrote, these losses belong to all of us and thus we must confront them. As future lawyers, we have the unique ability and responsibility to not only to condemn the actions of rogue law enforcement officers, but to use our legal training to ensure that those who take the lives of young black and brown men are brought to justice; and on a larger scale, we must work to enact laws and policies to protect young people from marginalized communities so that they no longer suffer the pain of death for doing nothing wrong. We can begin to uphold our responsibilities by committing to having the difficult conversation surrounding issues of racism in our country. We can and must take action based on the ideas and concerns we gather in those discussions. As a community of law students and lawyers, and as a society of individuals, we must act often and always to stop this racist violence in its tracks.

On a personal note, I was deeply saddened when I heard of the death of George Floyd. It was indicative of a bigger societal problem surrounding race relations and asked myself why, as a society, does this keep happening. I was angered by this senseless death, so I can only imagine the anger and sorrow that Mr. Floyd’s death caused our diverse students and our student body as a whole. Although I realize there is little that words can do to console our students during this challenging time, please know that our counseling center, our faculty, administrators and staff, and of course I myself, are all available to listen and to console you. Please know; however, that as Dean, I realize that this statement applies to our own school as well as it does to other institutions in society and that we too as a community have more work to do to ensure full inclusion and to prepare future lawyers to make the ideal of equal justice a reality. To that end, Fordham Law is committed to working to end these injustices.

Warm Regards,

Matthew Diller
Dean and Paul Fuller Professor of Law



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