Confronting Injustice

Message from Dean Michael Waterstone

May 31, 2020

Dear LLS Community, 

It is hard to know the words to write. 

There is so much pain and anger.  The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others — and the violence meeting those who peacefully bear witness — demonstrate brokenness, racism, structural inequality, and the worst aspects of our justice system.  We all feel profound sadness and despair, and must also realize that some members of our community experience this type of cruelty, dehumanization, fear, and violence directly.  COVID-19 has already made worse vulnerabilities that have always existed.  And the fractured nature of public discourse and trust can make clarity and hope harder to come by. 

Our ability to confront and console and reckon with all of this is also made worse because we are not physically together.  For many, the physical distance adds to a feeling of isolation that is not merely physical. 

I do not pretend to know the entirety of the way forward, for our community or for our nation. We cannot ourselves fix the injustice and inequality in the world, conditions that predate Loyola Law School’s founding 100 years ago.  But I do know that we must never stop trying, and that we need to teach and model that a better way is both an aching necessity and an inspiring possibility.  We have not only skills but obligations, as advocates and citizens, to make the effort.  The world needs Loyola students and graduates who are equipped to practice law and engage in public service with the highest standards of personal integrity, professional ethics, and a deep concern for social justice.  To advocate for fixing what is broken.  To forcefully call out injustice and decry inequality, with relentless focus and determination, yet with compassion and care. 

When I took Civil Procedure in law school, my professor assigned “Letters From A Birmingham Jail.”  When I taught the course, I always did the same.  The well-known, timeless quotation reads “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  Dr. King continues: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. … Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” 

It is sad that so many years after Dr. King provided such leadership and insight, we still struggle to make progress.  We must challenge ourselves to look inward at our biases and preconceptions, and look outward with empathy to understand others’ lives if we are to mend what is broken.  We must mourn the lives of men and women taken by police violence, and confront racism and other abuses in the criminal justice system, while acknowledging the sacrifice of men and women working in public safety who must risk their lives to protect others, many who demonstrate that true strength is embodied in compassion and empathy.  And we must support and care for members of our own community, who feel a level of personal devastation with current events that is both painful and raw.  

The LMU community is invited to attend a virtual forum, titled “Racism and Trauma in the Modern Moment” on Wednesday, June 3 from 3:30-5 p.m. This conversation, hosted by Intercultural Affairs, will be a space to acknowledge the trauma of systemic violence against African Americans.   We will also keep working on ways our law school community can address these important issues and support each other, and I am grateful for the members of our community who have already put forward ideas and suggestions.  We will model the change we hope to see in the world. 

With respect and gratitude, 

Michael E. Waterstone
Fritz B. Burns Dean, Loyola Law School
Senior Vice President, Loyola Marymount University