Today’s committee post is a little different to usual. But the Pubs and Publications committee felt that, during this time, with the spotlight being shone on systemic racism in police procedures and across wider societal structures, we needed to take explicit action towards supporting the anti-racist movement. So today we have our committee’s thoughts and suggestions as to how they are processing their own privilege, how we can educate ourselves in regards to others’ experiences in this discriminatory system, and what steps we can take to support people of colour.
* I would like to point out that all our committee members who have included their voice below are not people of colour. And in no way is it our intention to ‘white-splain’ the anti-racist movement. However, while we do recognise the paradox in this post, but we are choosing to speak, and use our privilege, to highlight resources written by POC and actions we can take to support the BLM movement.
I grew up in the Deep South of the USA, however my little bubble of Johns Creek felt more cosmopolitan and multicultural than the rest of Georgia. I remember being so sheltered from racism and xenophobia.
One instance that sticks out was when I talked to my friend Imani, a beautiful, kind, and talented WOC, about how I had never really witnessed racism. She then informed me that whilst not as easily observable in our little bubble (although racism definitely did shape the lives of POC in Johns Creek, just in ways less visible to white people), whenever she took one step outside that, she was called the n-word several times while working. I was horrified! How could I be so blind and deaf to these experiences of injustice?
In some ways, I think a lot of white people have had this sort of experience in the last couple years or weeks. And I certainly have to be reminded to check my privilege. It can be scary and uncomfortable to be confronted with the violence and micro-aggressions imposed on POC everyday. But it is this difficult and painful realisation that can lead to growth and understanding.
As people of privilege, we must take the time to educate ourselves as to the experiences of POC and how systemic racism shapes different facets of their lives. Below I have included a reading list and podcast recommendations to aid in this (btw, these suggestions are tailored to racism in academia and reproductive justice rather than the anti-racist movement more broadly).
Along with education, you can reach out to your government representatives and pressure them into acting to change the structures that oppress and kill POC. For me, that meant reaching out in Georgia and in Scotland. And for our British readers, do not limit your understanding of the BLM movement and police brutality to the American context.
British police do not need guns to kill POC. Like George Floyd and Eric Garner, POC have died in police custody from dangerous restraining holds or neglect with no police prosecution (see Jimmy Mubenga, Rashan Charles, Edson Da Costa, Sarah Reed, Sheku Bayoh). So I advise you to learn about how racism affects POC globally and locally.
We cannot let the anti-racist movement lose steam! So continue to educate yourself, listen to the voices of POC, and use whatever privilege you have to support BLM and dismantle systems that abuse POC to benefit white individuals!
Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia edited by Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. González, Angela P. Harris- A compilation of 40 stories and studies about the intersecting roles of race, gender, and class in the working lives of women faculty of color.
Invisible Labor by Eric Anthony Grollman –Column about how faculty of color at Historically White Colleges and Universities often deal with disproportionate amounts of invisible labor, and gives advice on how to minimize this burden.
Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy E. Roberts– In a media landscape dominated by racially biased images of welfare queens and crack babies, Killing the Black Body exposed America’s systemic abuse of Black women’s bodies, and the exclusion of Black women’s reproductive needs in mainstream feminist and civil rights agendas.
Intersectionality Matters! –Host Kimberlé Crenshaw (a leading scholar of critical race theory) explores different topics through an intersectional lens. The most recent episodes are part of a series about COVID-19, titled “Under the Blacklight.”
I understand that I’ll never understand, however I stand. It is not easy – and maybe not even fair – to say something about race, when I did not experience real racism on my skin. This is white privilege and it must be reckoned. I might have encountered prejudices and disrespectful preconceptions because I am Italian, or because I come from a specific region in my country – but racism is all another story, and I am lucky enough, I am privileged enough, to feel now a bit nervous about saying something on this matter.
I am nervous because I would like to contribute to the debate, but I know that I should use the right words, and not be disrespectful, or invasive, or presumptuous. I always repeated to myself the mantra “If you do not know a subject enough to say something appropriate, say nothing at all”.
I could do the same in this situation too, and only listen, read, be informed. For sure I will, but I also believe that something should be said, in order to not shut down the discussion on the long term among us privileged, in order to not make the Black Lives Matter movement something that matters only for the black people.
Everyone should stand and spread the word. My word, the privileged word, should not be assertive, but supportive and I believe that even only repeating that we stand too and do not forget or underestimate the scope of what is happening right now can help enhance and sustain the movement.
Racism and racial injustice has been propelled to the front of public minds in Britain, the United States, and the entire world since the murder of George Floyd. Concurrently, it has become imperative for us as (junior) academics to support anti-racist efforts.
As a PhD student researching politics and memory in civil rights-era America, I have been following the Black Lives Matter protests and the reactions of mainstream politicians. However, recent events have highlighted how I must be more than an interested and academic observer. I must be engaged with supporting the struggle for racial justice to the best of my ability. Talking about civil rights politics in the past – along with historic figures on both sides of the equal rights fissure – is not sufficient.
Rather than trying to muscle in and take over, as too many people with positions of white privilege often do, I have been endeavouring to learn. I have been trying to listen rather than speak. I have been reading (in some cases, re-reading) the works of Ta-Neishi Coates, and I would encourage all of you to do the same. I have a long reading list to get through – Twitter has been a brilliant source for directing readers where to look. I have also donated and lent my support to various campaigns and organisations in the United States and the U.K. I have also tried to help where best I can, utilising my research skills and findings, by taking part in online seminars and sessions where I can offer some kind of historical context and commentary.
I know I have not done anywhere near enough. I’m not going to stop listening and learning and trying to help where best I can. I am a member of a number of committees and I know, in the coming weeks and months, we will be reflecting on what we can do in our academic corners and our broader lives to support and foster racial justice. This is a moment in history where we – as individuals, communities, groups, and societies – must decide what we want the future to look like and what we must do to help bring it about.
The recent focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and the continual struggle for racial equality more broadly has forced me to realize a few things. No matter how woke a person might feel, there will always be more to unlock in terms of understanding the institutionalized social, political, economic, and educational inequities that shape the experiences of people of color. So, as a historian, I’ve been endeavoring to use my social media as a platform for people to educate themselves about Black history, and as a White woman, I’ve been using that same space to amplify Black voices.
I believe that education is an extremely powerful tool when it comes to improving race relations, and I’m grateful that I had conscientious history teachers in my life who taught honest lessons on hard topics. In an attempt to pass that knowledge onto others and to recognize Black experiences throughout history, I’ve been creating daily posts about topics ranging from Jim Crow Laws and Anti-miscegenation policies to the16th Street Baptist Church Bombing and the horrific murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers. Along with each post, I include a primary source such as a political cartoon, newspaper article, or the minutes from a KKK meeting which illustrate premeditated crimes against people of color. I then wrap-up my makeshift history lesson by suggesting additional readings from Black authors and asking for further input from people who know more than I do.
While I realize that these topics might not be the nicest thing to encounter when you’re scrolling through Instagram before getting out of bed in the morning, I also realize that now is the time to be uncomfortable. Now is the time to do some major self-reflection. Now is the time to not just be a good person, but to actively be anti-racist. So, if you’re looking to be uncomfortable, sad, frustrated, and angry, here’s a short reading list which works to highlight centuries of injustices against people of color:
White Over Black by Winthrop D. Jordan is an oldie, but a goodie, which almost encyclopedically details the evolution of how White Anglo-Americans’ perceptions of Black people facilitated the establishment of a nation founded upon liberty and justice for White people alone.
Women, Race, and Class by Angela Y. Davis traces the interwoven histories of abolitionism and women’s suffrage in an eye-opening examination of racism and class prejudice which sheds light on pioneering heroines who fought the good fight with everything they had.
Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools by Jonathan Kozol recounts the author’s observations of the public schooling systems in cities such as East St. Louis, Chicago, and New York and highlights the massive discrepancies in educational spending between predominately White communities and predominately BAME communities.
Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times by Darcy Eveleigh, Dana Canedy, Damien Cave, and Rachel L. Swarns brings to light 120 previously unpublished photographs, explores the history behind them, begs the question as to why they were not deemed newsworthy at the time of their creation, and makes you feel all sorts of feelings.