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
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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