Dear students and employees of Montreat College,

When I learned the details of the death of George Floyd, I experienced two reactions. The first was anger. “What?! Are you kidding me?! Again?!” The second was exasperation, bordering on exhaustion. “Why is this still happening in 2020?! We should be past this point in the U.S.!”

I assume by now you know that George Floyd, a black man, was restrained by a white Minneapolis police officer. In subduing him, the officer had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for over 5 minutes even though Mr. Floyd was not resisting and repeatedly told the officer he could not breathe. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Floyd went into cardiac arrest and died. The officer has been charged with murder.

As I have watched the protest response over these days, I’ve wondered whether the righteous outrage we’re seeing across our nation might lead to a tipping point – an event or moment in time that spurs widespread, lasting change. We need one.

I’m writing this specifically to the students and employees of Montreat College. My college. Your college. I’m writing to you because I want you to be absolutely clear about where your college stands on racism.

Racism is evil. It is among the worst impulses of our human condition. Racism is defined as our ability to see a person of a different race as inferior. More broadly, we have the ability to view another person as inferior, regardless of race. This is the larger evil. Unfortunately, world history is filled with examples of atrocities of humans in power wielding hatred toward those they deem inferior. Hitler’s Germany. Stalin’s Russia. Pol Pot’s Cambodia. The Hutu genocide in Rwanda. And many others. In the United States, we have slavery and racism.

Why is racism evil? Because of the Imago Dei. Imago Dei is the Latin term for “Image of God.” Our humanity, and its value, is rooted here. You and I are created in the image of God. Scripture tells us that humans are the crown of God’s creation, with eternal value. God loves each person equally. When we see others as inferior, not as worthy of human rights or life, we have a twisted view of our fellow travelers. Race-based animosity between those created in God’s image has no place in his Kingdom. It has no place at this college. Black students and employees – you are loved and valued at Montreat College. Forgive us for the times we haven’t affirmed your worth. We pledge to continue listening and learning alongside you.

George Floyd’s death is tragic. It is made worse because he was killed by a person entrusted to protect people. Even though law enforcement officers do amazing work every day, people of color have learned from these incidents to fear and distrust them. This must change. My heart breaks for George Floyd’s family and friends. My heart breaks for every black American who is confused, hurting and lonely.

I invite you to pray and act in two specific ways for our country and our college. First, pray that this would be a cultural tipping point. Second, that we would recommit ourselves to work toward unity and trust in our college community, built upon the life-giving understanding that we are all created equal, and that each person has infinite value. Even on this side of Heaven, there is an imperfect version of Christ’s redemptive love, justice, and peace. Let us choose this in how we interact with each other.

President Paul J. Maurer