I write this missive with a heavy heart—on this, the date of an infamous massacre of hundreds of Black citizens at the hands of a racist white mob in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. It has been one week since George Floyd was killed by white police in Minneapolis. It has been 28 years since I moved to California in the midst of protests over the brutal beating of Rodney King by militarized police in Los Angeles. Such acts of racist, state-sanctioned violence are neither exceptional nor spectacular: they are dismaying, quotidian and as such, all the more insidious and potentially soul-crushing.
Nevertheless, I think we can be heartened by the current uprisings across the globe which, as with the international anti-lynching campaign led by Ida B. Wells in the 20th century, represent a deep desire to promote human dignity with fundamental rights — for health, housing, and justice —if not for the very right to exist, to breathe.
In an Op-Ed written in this weekend’s New York Times , Roxane Gay argued that, “Eventually doctors will develop a coronavirus vaccine, but black people will continue to wait for a cure for racism.” This striking juxtaposition makes us think and take notice of the seemingly changing same that is U.S. anti-Black racism. It asserts that unlike a virus, white supremacy is a system designed and upheld by numerous acts of institutional power. Gay gives voice to the numerous people who know that Black lives matter and as a result, seek to intervene in the structures that deny that ethic. It is my ardent hope that the collective actions we have witnessed this past week, this past decade, and indeed are doing this very minute, may move the few who oppress the many.
We at CCSRE recognize that anti-Black racism negatively impacts our institutions including Stanford University and are working actively to engage with students of color and Black students in particular, faculty and administrators to change the current racial order.
Let me close with a line from the poet Elizabeth Alexander, who closes the poem, “Ars Poetics #100: I Believe,” in the award-winning volume American Sublime (2005) “Poetry…is the human voice, and are we not of interest to each other?” We must learn to be of interest to each other across our divides to build a more equitable structure for our environment.
Below you will find a list of resources to start building now.
In solidarity and with sincerity,
Jennifer DeVere Brody, Faculty Director, CCSRE