University President Michael V. Drake declared his support of the Columbus City Council’s resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis Monday.
Drake addressed the council after five days of protests in downtown Columbus, Ohio, which began after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody. His death and others resulted from the actions of law enforcement officers.
Drake said the university looks forward to helping implement the resolution.
“The Ohio State University is a committed community of scholars, scientists, researchers and healthcare providers ready and eager to work with you and other policymakers to help create a world in which we all can live together and live healthier, more productive and more fulfilling lives,” Drake said.
Drake started his address by commending the council for its response and said he was “wounded” and “sick at heart” by the events.
“With these types of events happening in our lives, they’re seared in our memory,” Drake said.
Drake, who teaches a course on civil rights at Ohio State, also reflected on history through the ’60s — a decade that also saw aggressive police action towards black demonstrators.
Now, more than 50 years later, the country is witnessing a historical repeat with cities calling for a change in response to the injustices toward black Americans.
“I’m very hopeful that we can at some point break out of this cycle of repeating ourselves and really move toward progress,” Drake told the council.
To describe why the resolution is important to him during this time, Drake shared his own experiences with racism in today’s society as an African American man.
“If I walk down the street in a baseball cap and a pair of sunglasses I’m treated entirely differently, but I’m treated if I have on the suit and tie and people know who I am, it’s starkly different, and I could do it right now,” Drake said. “I’ve raised two African American sons, I’ve watched the same things happen to them. I have grandsons; I know that their lives are going to be the same and those are the effects not of who they are but how their neighbors treat them and racism.”
Drake’s comments to the council come after he sent a universitywide email Saturday encouraging students, faculty and staff to reflect on the weekend’s events and “what we as individuals, as a community, and as a nation must do to prevent crimes like this from happening again.”
Drake also tweeted his condemnation of Floyd’s death Friday.
“On behalf of The Ohio State University, I want to express our horror and disgust at the brutality and inhumanity we witnessed this week in Minneapolis,” Drake tweeted. “I am heartsick at seeing the death of yet another unarmed man in police custody, and yet another example of the racism that has crippled our nation for so very long.”