The Samek would like to support and share a recent statement by Nikki Young, our campus Associate Provost for Diversity Equity and Inclusion
I greet you this evening in the recognition that life is not a right afforded equally to all. For those of us who are black, with melanated skins and experiences, each breath seems a stolen miracle, stealthily taken from the stifling and toxic air of violent, antiblack racism.
When any one of us takes to the public square to protest the state or other public institutions on the matter of our lives, we face real trauma that reflects cognitive dissonance. Though we know we are alive and worthy of safety, housing, food, and life by virtue of being human, we see and experience the need to convince others of that point. We do so in the face of structures, policies, and practices that demand the evisceration of black life. For some, it may be difficult to acknowledge and admit that the current state of policing in this country reinforces white supremacism (a system of white supremacy). But we have to admit it in order to transform such systems and create a safe, accessible, and just society.
Life’s precarity, recently brought into view for many people by the COVID-19 pandemic, is not new for some of us. In fact, for many of us, our own lives and livability have been at stake since the inception of this country. What we are collectively witnessing now is a continuation—a legacy—of violence and violent agitation related to black people, black lives, and the question of whether or not they matter. While numerous amy coopers weaponize white privilege and power in a way that demonizes black people, policing agencies continue to abuse a similar strain of power in a way that consistently terrorizes black people and threatens black livability. George Floyd, whose life was cut short in Minneapolis this week, was a(nother) victim of such violence. So too was Ahmaud Aubery, who was fatally shot by vigilantes in Georgia in February. Then there is Breonna Taylor, who faced a similar end in Louisville, Kentucky in March. And if I continue to name the death of black people at the hands of systems of law, this email might not end…. As a member of and leader within the Bucknell community, I am taking this moment to affirm that black lives do matter and that black livability is not and should never be in question. And to my fellow black folks at Bucknell: I see you. I value you. I respect and appreciate you. And I’m with you.
Let all of us at Bucknell recognize that blatant forms of antiblack racism, implicit bias, and racialized violence tax our students, staff, and faculty in different ways, having a particularly devastating impact on minoritized folks in general and on black folks in particular. Witnessing the persistent and pernicious effect of antiblack violence is not only demoralizing and debilitating but also exhausting and terror-filled. It has an impact on how safe we feel – especially the students among us – and reinforces the need for the entire campus to understand and acknowledge the tangible effects of privilege, power, and oppression. In moments like this, all of us may notice large scale forms of oppression – the systems – but the systems stand on subtleties. These are the moments when we need to take stock of the systemic and subtle ways that oppression and violence show up in our classrooms, homes, and communities and is fueled by spoken and unspoken complicity.
You may notice that the news cycle has highlighted violence as it relates to protests, outrage, and private property but lacked a similar response to the outrageousness of consistent and unfettered fatal violence against black life. As Professor Jaye Austin Williams (Africana Studies) put it this morning on our walk, such news cycles “betray a long-standing appetite for spectacular black subjection, one that coheres a performed indignation in hopes of redeeming those who need to believe they are not implicated in antiblackness. It can never redeem the subjected… from death or from the terror of the next spectacle.” Efforts to clean up—sanitize—cities and public spaces after nights of public outcry and critique do not (and can never) erase the blood of violence visited on black bodies. Nor can those efforts erase the cause of the rage, even if they try to ignore its immediacy. Only in a scenario that relegates black people, black lives, and black bodies to fungible property can there be a comparison between buildings, goods, cars and humans.
As an educational community, Bucknell prides itself on supporting students as they develop their individual voices and become conscious and avid listeners who respond to and learn from the world around us. Protests, laments, and reflections, are all expressions of voice and are valid. For those of us invested in liberal arts education, our commitment needs to be in fostering a community of critically conscious people who can conceive of and cultivate a livable world for all. So, as we all move forward with plans for next fall, let us think about multiple pandemics which threaten public health – antiblack violence, inhumane border enforcement and immigration policies, poverty and homelessness, as well as the COVID-19 virus – and the social and political contexts that we can and ought to create together. Discussions of schedules, protocols, and more must also navigate the divergent realities that many students face and must reflect the reality that the precarity of some is the ignored cost of security and comfort for others.
Here are few reminders, should any of you find yourselves in conversations related to race, blackness, and violence in the coming days:
- Building community requires truth-telling, bravery, courage, and grace. And it makes space for a full range of emotional responses to horrifying realities.
- People of color in general and black folks in particular do not need to do the work of curtailing or assuaging anyone’s guilt or providing space for anyone’s apologies.
- One’s solidarity does not require another to rehearse their precarity.
- White people can and should educate and work with one another to develop responses of solidarity.
- Care for community is powerful and righteous. And for black folks, right now: care for ourselves is sacred and revolutionary.
With indignant lament and measured hope,
Thelathia “Nikki” Young, Ph.D.
Interim Associate Provost for Diversity Equity and Inclusion
Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Religion