Statement on George Floyd, Anti-Blackness and Unrest in America

A message of solidarity from the Black Studies Program at Occidental College.

June 3, 2020

Dear Students, Colleagues and Friends:

Statements condemning George Floyd’s murder and acknowledging the protests sweeping the country are flooding in, signaling that, “the whole world is watching.” We recognize that this is an unprecedented moment in the history of the United States, a moment that requires us to reaffirm our commitment to each other and to our community.  As scholars and activists in Black Studies, we believe it is our duty to issue a statement that resonates with the deep tradition of critiquing and actively protesting against anti-Blackness and white supremacy. Our Black Studies program, like the discipline itself, emerged in the context of protest and we offer this statement in that spirit. We also offer it to honor the memories of two of our students, Ilah Richardson and Jaden Burris, who were so committed to the beloved Black community.

In 2019, we commemorated the four-hundredth anniversary of the first documented arrival of captive Africans in British North America. Now, in 2020, we find ourselves adding yet another name – George Floyd – to the grim register of those Black men, women, and children whose executions have been documented, recorded, broadcast and/or shared across media platforms in recent years. Though the list of names is tragically long – Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Charley “Africa” Keunang, Eula Love, and on and on – we must “say their names” in collective outrage for those murdered at the hands of police. This history – the centuries of slavery, the race-based caste system that emerged in slavery’s wake, and the most recent surge of white nationalism and violence against people of African descent in the United States – weighs heavily on us.

We are united in our grief and our determination to advocate for a better and more just community. We stand in solidarity with activists and organizers including many of our own students on the frontlines of the public demonstrations of support for the family of George Floyd, and the calls for justice voiced by thousands of Americans and others across the world who have taken to the streets.

We are keenly aware that Mr. Floyd’s murder takes place in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, a virus that has disproportionately affected communities of color in the United States. In fact, COVID-19 has laid bare the economic and health disparities that, along with state-sponsored violence, plague Black communities in this country. We recognize that many are risking their health and well-being to struggle for justice in the midst of this global pandemic.

As scholars who specialize in the study of Black history, culture, and politics, the Black Studies faculty at Occidental College remain committed to research, teaching, and community-based advocacy that confronts anti-Blackness and uplifts Black people, and dismantling barriers that sequester academia and hoard educational resources for the privileged few. We refuse to accede to dehumanization. We pledge to continue to teach about Black life because we know that Black lives do matter. We stand with all those who continue to fight for justice.

The Black Studies Program
Occidental College