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Message from Dean Michael Cahill to the Brooklyn Law School Community

06/05/2020

At our convocation for incoming students in August, I spoke of lawyers as a community of faith. Our shared calling and commitment is a belief in justice. That faith is captured in the words of the nineteenth-century abolitionist minister Theodore Parker, later famously paraphrased by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.:

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.

It is in some respects my role as dean, and our role as a law school, to exemplify our profession’s norms and beliefs. But I must confess that days like these shake my faith.

We are at the mercy of a global plague that preys most ferociously on our most vulnerable. Racism, and racial violence, of a kind and degree we might sometimes think (or wish) dwells only in our shameful past reasserts itself — again, again, and again — as an ongoing and seemingly undying feature of American life. The very legal and governmental institutions on which the victims of illness, injury, and bigotry would rely for help seem indifferent, or worse.

Like Reverend Parker, I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; neither do I pretend to understand the hardship and prejudice so many in our community have endured each day of their lives. Perhaps my willingness to profess faith in justice itself only reflects, and reveals, the privilege and comfort that have attended each day of my own life.

Yet I know this: whether or not true justice exists or will ever exist, injustice surely does. Whether or not we can find justice, we can see, and name, and fight injustice.

In the days to come, our faculty and administration will do our best to encourage, and to hear, the voices of those who wish to share their anger, outrage, pain, and grief. We will do our best to provide help and resources for those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit. We will do our best to create, for ourselves, our profession, and our society, a community that is safe, welcoming, inclusive, and respectful. With your help, we will do our best, though the arc seems unbearably long, to bend it toward justice.