April 22, 2021

Reflecting on “Man’s Search for Justice”

This email was sent to Columbia College students on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.

Dear Columbia College Students,

When I first visited former Attorney General Eric Holder CC’73 at the United States Department of Justice seven years ago, we discussed the germ of an idea that would later become the Eric H. Holder Initiative for Civil and Political Rights at the College. Upon arriving, I passed through the library, decorated with twenty murals painted by Maurice Sterne, which are often referred to as the series on “Man’s Search for Justice.” I was struck by the symbolism of these paintings, illustrating that mankind is still far from achieving justice and that we might only do so if we continue to strive forth in that pursuit.

During the last 24 hours, many of us have sought to reflect on and process the relief that the jury in Derek Chauvin’s trial stood by truth and what was right, while also feeling a sense of deep sadness that ‘right’ is not always the norm when race is at play.

Lessons from life’s harsh realities are often our best teachers, if we choose to listen and also act. Students at the College stand at the forefront of society – you will be future leaders, thinkers, lawyers and lawmakers, advocates and activists and so much more. As the verdict yesterday was unambiguous, so too must be our commitment, individually and together, to remain active citizens, bystanders and advocates for George Floyd’s legacy and for the countless other victims who have yet to see justice.

The path towards dismantling anti-Black racism is now revealing itself; I know you can and will help to paint more murals in our collective search for justice.

Dean Valentini

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