We, faculty leaders, program directors, and department chairs of African American / Africana Studies units at Catholic Universities and Colleges, write to express our full solidarity with the protests currently occurring all over the U.S. and indeed the world in defense of Black life.
We are dismayed and enraged, but unfortunately not surprised by the killing of yet another Black person at the hands of predatory policing and white vigilantism. While this movement has arisen in response to the social crisis of policing in society at large, many of us have experienced negative interactions with campus police at our institutions. Systemic racism and white supremacy are problems even at Catholic institutions.
While we acknowledge that several of our university presidents have issued public statements condemning police violence and the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as the white vigilantism that claimed the life of Ahmaud Arbery, we also believe that statements are not enough. Statements and apologies without clear plans for transformation and accountability are empty. Worse, such incomplete approaches exacerbate conditions long in need of remedy. Catholic institutions, while guided by principles of faith, wield significant symbolic, political, social, and economic power. Academic institutions such as ours have been as complicit in limiting Black potential as any other institution over the past two centuries or longer. We call for conversion: our institutions must reorient themselves to the common good, privileging the perspective of the most marginalized.
- Reconsider relationships between campus police, local police, and universities, with an eye toward the particular vulnerabilities of Black university community members
- Increase funding to African American Studies units on campuses and ensure their permanence and stability – in many cases this means departmentalizing these units, creating endowed chairs, and supporting lecture series and other programming
- Increase the number of Black faculty, including senior scholars in departments across campus
- Provide support for Black contingent faculty, mentor Black junior faculty to ensure successful progress to tenure, and facilitate paths to full professor for tenured associate professor level faculty
- Increase the number of Black students on campus
- Support students’ rights to openly protest when they are back on campus
- Support student athletes’ right to protests without reprisals
- Support all efforts to excavate the university’s involvement with slavery and how the university has directly or indirectly profited from Black oppression
- Ensure campus ministries allow Black students, faculty, and staff the space to grieve
- Develop partnerships with communities instead of gentrifying those communities
- Campus administrative leaders including Presidents, Provosts, and Deans should move towards a deeper and more complex understanding of race and racism in the country, in higher education, and on their own campuses
- Recognize and compensate invisible labor: including the emotional labor of Black academic workers, particularly women, and support staff, from office support to the physical plant
- Prioritize Black demands for justice, especially during budget crises
The protests in the streets will not be enough to transform our world. Even as we write another Black man in Atlanta, Rayshard Brooks, has been killed by the police. The world is changing before our eyes, but it is not changing soon enough to stop the crisis facing Black life. Catholic Universities and Colleges across the U.S. can play a pivotal and leading role in the transformation being called for on America’s streets. Symbolic statements, marches, token town halls, or other typical measures to pacify our campus communities are not sufficient while grave inequities persist.
–LaMonda Horton-Stallings, Chair, Department of African American Studies, Georgetown University
–Amir Idris, Chair, Department of African and African American Studies, Fordham University
–Vincent Lloyd, Director of Africana Studies Program, Villanova University
–Nadine M. Knight, Director of Africana Studies (outgoing), College of the Holy Cross
–Chima J. Korieh, Director of Africana Studies Program, Marquette University
–C. Shawn McGuffey, Director of African and African Diaspora Studies, Boston College
–Munya Munochiveyi, Director of Africana Studies (incoming), College of the Holy Cross
–Dianne M. Pinderhughes, Chair, Department of Africana Studies, University of Notre Dame
–Christopher M. Tinson, Director of African American Studies, Saint Louis University
–Brian L. Turner, Director of African American Diaspora Studies, Xavier University of Louisianapermission.