Africana Studies and Black Lives Matter
On May 25, 2020, a Minneapolis police officer suffocated an unarmed and non-resistant 46-year old George Floyd, in broad daylight, on camera, and under the watchful and complicit gaze of three other officers. The extrajudicial killing was yet another in a series of arbitrary killings of Black men, women, children, and transgender and other gender non-conforming persons by vigilantes and agents of the state with impunity. Only weeks before, Louisville officers killed Breonna Taylor in her home without consequence and months before, three white men shot-to-kill Ahmaud Arbery as he ran along a Georgia road. Significantly, the killings, only unique for gaining national attention, took place in the context of the COVID19 pandemic. Despite being hailed as a great equalizer, the virus has disproportionately impacted Black communities making increasingly clear that race, and, more accurately, racism is a comorbidity.
The confluence of a devastating global health pandemic and the grotesque killings of Black civilians catalyzed a national movement and resurgent demands to protect Black life. Protests have taken place across all fifty states as well as eighteen countries. Mayors declared curfews in fifteen cities as militarized law enforcement police deployed tear gas, rubber bullets, and tanks against unarmed protestors. Scotland imposed weapons sanctions prohibiting the transfer of tear gas to the United States and, shattering the fallacies of American exceptionalism, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, together with the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, requested the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate racism in US law enforcement and its relationship to legacies of slavery and colonialism.
The Department of Africana Studies has, since 1969, been devoted to close analysis of black experience to support the work of social justice both nationally and internationally. Our courses examine the precise issues underpinning these inter-connected manifestations of the ways that the treatment of Black life is an indicator of the ways that inequality and oppression is structured, but they also help us understand the ways those oppressions have been challenged and dismantled. The world stands poised to make a definitive break with the legacy of oppression, and Africana Studies stands ready to prepare a new generation to usher in that new world. As we strive together to realize the transformative potential contained within the pain of the present moment, Africana Studies is today more than ever a vital part of education for all people, not just Black people.