June 3, 2020
An Open Statement From
Spelman College Faculty and Staff

More than 50 years ago, the 1967 Kerner Commission (Commission on Civil Disorders) was convened in response to "civil unrest" in major cities across the country. Several recommendations, including improving police-community relations, resulted from the work of the Commission. Following multiple meetings and opportunities for input from members of the Commission, the Commission concluded that, at that time, systemic racism was the root cause of the civil unrest that characterized protests within communities. This important finding, however, did not result in any actual, broad-based sustained change that had the power to address the impact of racism on housing, health, educational, and criminal justice disparities that are normalized in our society.

In 2015, President Obama called for a President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The eleven members of the task force put together a final report which made recommendations for redefining policing in a democratic society. Following a forum that included mayors, police chiefs, law enforcement personnel, and community leaders from around the country, a new division of the White House and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) was added – the Policing Practices and Accountability Section – aimed at providing crisis response resources, best practices, and technical assistance to implement the recommendations of the report. Seemingly, not much became of those recommendations.

Today, we find ourselves addressing the same issues that are grounded in impenetrable, unyielding, and sometimes not easily detectable racism. As a black women’s institution, we urge an intersectional analytical framework to disaggregate how identity markers inform our analysis of the impact of structural inequalities. This framework will better help explain the response of the victims and perpetrators of policies and procedures that render so many of us dispensable.

While we have been watching the coverage of what is happening in response to the brutal murder of George Floyd, we, like many others, are reminded of the countless men, women, and gender non-conforming persons killed by law enforcement officers and those "acting" as law enforcement officers, most recently Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery. When we saw Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young, two young people from Spelman College and Morehouse College, respectively, be arrested and tasered by the police on camera, we wondered "what in the world could have justified the response of the officers?" As scholars and staff of an institution invested in Black women’s education writ large, we have studied, researched, and taught about the many and varied ways U.S. society has sustained, maintained, reinforced, and safeguarded a violent and virulent anti-blackness ideology. Still, we ask: Why is there not greater accountability in the arrest and conviction of all police officers involved in the George Floyd case? Why were our students arrested?

We support the protesters, but we are, like others, concerned about those committing acts of vandalism that appear to be designed to intentionally destroy "our city" and other cities across the country. Yet, we have to be reminded that these tensions are the result of other forms of violence that are not criminalized – the violence that is perpetrated by officials and non-officials alike who blatantly encourage race-based insurrections by those whom they support; the violence in the form of inadequate housing or poor educational resources; the violence of racialized health disparities; the violence of systematic economic exclusion; the violence of inadequate food and housing for our children, many of whom without going to school every day would not be fed; the violence of rampant injustice throughout the criminal justice system, including policing, courts, and corrections; the violence of negative labeling of some immigrants; and more.

We do not condone violence, but we understand it. We support our students and their multiple tactics of activism. We hope that the root causes of these lingering wounds and injustices that are grounding and fueling the current protests will remain clear. Let us not get distracted by how to discern "good" protesters versus "bad" protesters. Let us not seek reasons to ignore the reality that every social justice movement from women’s rights to LGBTQ+ rights to civil rights to immigration rights has been catalyzed by longstanding inequities.

The questions before us are: How do we work together to create a more equitable and just society? How do we stand up against leaders who blatantly disregard the plight of those who lack adequate access to resources or to economic or political power to help themselves? How do we overcome the structure of policing that is tethered to violence against indigenous and enslaved populations from which it emerged?

We do not need more commissions, classes, discussions and/or scholarly texts. While all of these are laudable, we know why people were protesting in the street this weekend and other times as well. We live and breathe each day in a racist society. Many of us even benefit from that fact. Black people are being murdered before our very eyes. There are numerous things we can do.

We must organize and support each other. We need to identify the people and groups engaged in anti-racist action. As educators, we encourage our colleagues at all levels to use intersectional lenses of analysis in teaching future leaders, and especially to learn and to teach about historic and contemporary iterations of white supremacy. We must engage in this and other work that brings forth substantive change.

We know that voting is important! And yes, our choices are not always ideal. But we must vote for agendas that move us closer to gaining equity. We must vote for policies that work for all our communities. We must elect national, state and local leaders who will work toward agendas that move us closer to an equitable society. We can all find ways to address inequities in society; many will require us to step outside of our comfort zones.

The struggle is real. BLACK LIVES depend on ALL OF US.

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
Sharon Davies, JD
Abayomi Ola
Aditi Pai
Aisha Hitson
Aku Kadogo
Alayna Blash
Alexandria Hadd
Alexandria Lockett
Alisa Butler
Allison Howard
Al-Yasha Ilhaam Williams
Alexxiss Jackson
Alyson Dorsey
Anastasia Valecce
Andrea E Johnson
Andrea Barnwell
Andrea Lewis
Angela Farris Watkins
Angelino Viceisza
Anisah N. Nu’Man
Anna Powolny Ventura
Anjanette Levert
Ann Hornsby
Anne Carlson
Anne Collins Smith
Annette Davis
April King
Arthur Frazier
Ashli Washington
Ayoka Chenzira
B. Renee Leonard
Belinda Griffith
Bernadette Cohen
Beverly Guy-Sheftall
Bhikhari Tharu
Blanche Bryant
Beverly Hinton
Bonnie J. Taylor
Brandi C. Brimmer
Brandi Reese
Bryan Simmons
Carmen Kemp
Cassandra Joseph
Catherine Odari
Celenia Kiernan
Celeste Lee
Chantel Coston-Lundi
Chardina Choate
Christina Butera
Chelsea N. Holley
Cheryl Finley
Chevette Faide
Christopher Oakley
Cleveland Johnson
Colm Mulcahy
Courtney Powell
Cynthia Neal Spence
Dalila A. de Sousa
Dacia Davis
Dalayna Johnson
Danielle Dickens
Danielle K. Moore
DaNita Brady McClain
Daphne Faison
Darryl B. Holloman
David James
Dawit Kevorkian
Deanna Koretsky
DeKimberlen Neely
Desiree S. Pedescleaux
Dena Terrell
Desiree Mack
‘Dimeji Togunde
Dolores Bradley Brennan
Dongfang Wang
Dorian Brown Crosby
Dorita Treadwell
Doris Pierce-Hardy
Dulma Nugawela
Elethia Tillman
Emily Foster
Erica L. Williams
Erin Michele Washington
Fatemeh Schafiei
Fernando Esquivel-Suárez
Gene McGinnis
Felicia Deas
Frances Cloud
Geneva H. Baxter
Germaine McAuley
Gertrude Gonzalez de Allen
Guanyu Huang
Heather Hawes
Hyunjung Rachel Chung
Habiba Harrell
Helene Moon
Holly Smith
Inês Cordeiro Dias
Ingrid Hayes
Ingrid Lassiter
Iretta Kearse
Isabel A. Curley-Clay
Jacqueline Alvarez-Rosales
Janike Ruginis Gross
Jacquelyn Jackson
James Melton
Jarod Apperson
Jarvis Ridges
Jaye Nias
Jazmyn D. Burton
Jerry Volcy
Jessica Terrien Dunn
Jeticia Sistrunk
Jilo Tisdale
Jimmeka Guillory Wright
Jinshan Zhang
Joan McCarty
Joe Hardy
John H. Eaves
Johnnella E. Butler
Joyce E. Davis
Joyce Johnson
Joycelyn Wilson
Julie B. Johnson
Kadria Scott
Kai McCormack

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Natasha Emmanuel
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