We write to you as members of the Sociology Department’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee. We write in solidarity with people protesting against police violence against the Black community. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and David McAtee are part of a long and ever-present history of members of the Black community who were killed by active or former members of the police force. Presently, we are seeing the militarized response to peaceful protests and continued police violence. We recognize that protests assert the humanity and human rights that have long been denied to members of the Black community.
As sociologists, our training demands that we understand the intersections of biography, history and society. Thus, we recognize that anti-blackness is a foundational element to global systems of governance and capitalism. In the United States, anti-blackness is built into our institutions, discipline, and interpersonal interactions.
The long history of the Black Radical Tradition compels us to question state narratives and to use the tools we have to speak truth to power. Ida B. Wells' work demands that we interrogate the “excuses” that are given to erase extrajudicial executions and that we name the falsehoods. Wells shows us that we must listen to the communities that are affected and we must act. State violence against the black community is part of a centuries long practice that must end.
To our Black students, we recognize all that you, your families, and communities are going through. We see the trauma and pain and understand the importance of self-care. We know that calls to “restore order” or to return to the status-quo are demands that we are complicit in ongoing violence. We know this is not acceptable. We recognize that our words mean little without action.
To our Indigenous and other students of color, your solidarity is a model that we aspire to follow. To quote the words of Tyree Scott, a black labor activist, we know there can be “no separate peace.” We must continue to listen, stand with, and work to address anti-blackness in our own communities.
To our White students, we encourage your continued cultivation of mindful allyship. This time is a time for renewing a commitment to actively listening and following the leadership of Black people and communities. We must leverage the privileges that afford us ease in society to fight for racial justice and for the lives of marginalized populations.
We recognize that research on these issues exists. Yet, institutionalized racism shapes whose voices are documented and listened to. And we believe that the specific contexts of our department and institution should be at the center of informing our work. We will continue to do the work to educate ourselves and to take action.
The DEI Committee is in the process of drafting a departmental mission statement that will guide faculty members regarding issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion. Before we present our document to the full department for approval, we plan to seek your input. As students and alumni of the sociology department, you represent powerful voices for change that can tell us how we, as faculty, can support you as complex human beings. Please stay tuned for further action on this.
We end with the words of Mariame Kaba, a Black Feminist prison abolitionist. Mariame Kaba writes: “Questions I regularly ask myself when I' m outraged about injustice: 1. What resources exist so I can better educate myself? 2. Who's already doing work around this injustice? 3. Do I have the capacity to offer concrete support & help to them? 4. How can I be constructive?”