Reflections on the Recent Violence in the U.S.

GW community members’ reactions and messages about the Memphis tragedy and recent spate of mass shootings.

January 30, 2023


On Friday, the United States once again was forced to grapple with police brutality as video of five Memphis Police Officers brutally killing Tyre Nichols after pulling him over for a so-called traffic stop sparked more protests and conversation in cities across the United States, most of them peaceful. 

The video was released days after a series of three mass shootings in California, including one in Monterey Park in which 11 people celebrating the Lunar New Year were fatally wounded. 

GW Today reached out to university leaders and faculty, asking them to reflect on this point in time and share their thoughts with the GW community.  Below are their reflections:

“As an institution of higher learning, our university has an important role in addressing racial injustices and creating safer communities for all. I urge our community to share our support for one another as we process these recent events.”

President Mark S. Wrighton

“As a community of caregivers present on the front lines, we have a responsibility to influence change and advocate for the health and safety of all people. We must push for reforms to end these senseless acts of aggression and create a nation where everyone can live without fear.” 

-Barbara Lee Bass, dean of SMHS, vice president of health affairs and CEO of the GW Medical Faculty Associates


“I think there's always going to be perpetuated forces regardless of who's wearing the badge unless we make an active choice to combat these narratives of violence.”

-Gianna Cook, a senior English major who is also the president of the Black Student Union


“At the College of Professional Studies, we are horrified, angered and deeply saddened by the violence that has rocked our nation over the past few weeks. From attacks on members of our Asian American Pacific Islander community to the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols, pain has flooded through our society and our hearts. Our minds are still grappling with how these types of atrocities have happened yet again in our country.” 

-Liesl Riddle, dean of the College of Professional Studies


“That could have been me. That could have been my brother or uncle or any of my loved ones. So, I think it hurt just a little more.”

-Tyler Bray, a sophomore international affairs major at GW


“Events like this continue to erode the confidence and trust between law enforcement and communities, understandably so. While additional police training is probably necessary, only a change in institutional culture can begin to mitigate these horrific events.”

-Milken Institute SPH Dean Lynn Goldman


“I was both angered and disgusted by the unlawful actions of police, as well as their failure to render aid after Mr. Nichols was in custody. What we saw in the video goes against our values and training. Police departments must be aggressive about identifying bad policing practices early and eventually ending an officer’s employment before anything close to this happens again.” 

-GWPD Police Chief James Tate


“The more we talk about these issues, the better we will get as a society, as a nation and as a world.”

-Kayla Laws, president of the GW chapter of the NAACP and secretary for the GW chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists


"The fact that the perpetrators of these crimes were themselves Black and Asian is a reflection, not a contradiction, of the systemic devaluation of human lives when they belong to marginalized groups. The racism and xenophobia that disproportionately relegates some to segregated neighborhoods, inferior schools, low-wage paying jobs, and unsafe streets accounts for the lens through which assailants – Black, White, Asian, Latino, or other assailants – see their victims."

-Dayna Bowen Matthew, GW Law Dean


"The news of all this heartbreak and discord can weigh heavily on our hearts and minds. I continue to believe that we have the opportunity to make this world better through the work we do with our students. The answer for the future lies in our ability to connect with each other as human beings."

-Colette Coleman, Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students