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African American Studies Program


June 9, 2020

African American Studies Statement on the Murder of George Floyd

The African American Studies program at Western Kentucky University stands in solidarity with protests against police brutality carried out in communities across the country. We stand with our students, faculty, staff, and graduates who are now taking action to insist that Black Lives Matter! We share President Caboni’s insistence that we cannot remain silent in the face of injustice because silence equals complicity, and that, as an institution, we must continue to work together and stand up for fairness and justice for every person. We are naturally committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion because, as an interdisciplinary field of academic inquiry, African American Studies entered the university, over a half century ago, on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement and in response to widespread student demands for a diverse and inclusive curriculum. We are conscious of our past and remain committed to these ideals.

We recognize that we are all living in an unprecedented moment in our nation’s history, one that many of us are experiencing in deeply personal ways. While the pandemic remains a daily challenge for everyone, and a tragedy for far too many, the disproportionate deaths it imposes on Black people has magnified and exposed our most deeply embedded failings and fault lines as a society. This is now compounded by the outrage we are experiencing across our nation over a life violently cut short.

The murder of George Floyd was traumatizing for many and laid bare how oppression does not fall equally among us in this country. The brutality of his death at the hands of four policemen on a Minneapolis street in broad daylight, and the callous indifference with which his pleas for both his breath and his mother were received, was heartbreaking to see on national television, over and over and over again. No singular message can do justice to the depths of despair, anger, and grief caused by this brutal act. No words can offer peace and comfort to those in our community who experience racism as a constant.

We also acknowledge George Floyd’s death as a tragedy, but not an isolated one. We see the longue durée of racism in America as systemic, structural, and institutional. His murder, the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery, the shooting of Breonna Taylor, and the state-sanctioned murders of so many other people of color, are the most shocking examples of the racism shaping our society today. Judy Lubin of Howard University’s Center for Urban and Racial Equity reminds us that we must be intentional in raising up all the names of the dead, as “Police violence against Black people is a collective experience,” and that we must remain vigilant against erasing the murder of “women, queer, and trans members in our communities.” We agree.

The protests erupting around the nation and the world express a demand for change. The urgency of this call for collective action cannot be overstated. The African American Studies program, therefore, affirms its commitment to advocating for social justice and educating students who will change the world for the better. We stand with the Black Lives Matter movement in the face of cruelty, fear, and anxiety and remain committed to combating divisiveness, ignorance, hate, and racism by asserting Black humanity and dignity in our teaching, scholarship, and programming and through encouraging the conversations necessary to achieve a more inclusive WKU.

Written by Dr. Andrew Rosa, History, on behalf of the African American Studies Program

Dr. Saundra Ardrey, Political Science

Dr. Selena Doss, History

Dr. Cheryl Hopson, English

Dr. Jennifer Walton-Hanley, History

 

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 Last Modified 6/9/20