The Critical Race Initiative grieves with the families of George Floyd, Oluwatoyin Salau, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and the countless other known and unknown Black and Brown people whose lives have been cut short by police and civilian violence. These recent deaths are representative of the racial violence that the Black community has been confronting and fighting since the founding of this country. This violence has always been unacceptable. It has always been wrong. CRI also grieves with Black students, faculty and staff, and the broader Black community who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 at disproportionately high rates.
America is in the midst of two colliding pandemics—the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemic of racism and anti-Blackness that have been ongoing since our country's founding. Together, these two major crises underscore the continuing and mostly unaddressed multisystemic crisis of structural racism in law enforcement, healthcare, employment, education, politics, environment, and other societal institutions.
These tragic, horrific, and unnecessary deaths are not isolated events but instead represent a pattern of ongoing systemic failures of institutions within many communities in this country. These institutions should serve Black and Brown communities but have failed to keep these communities safe and have been sources of violence and oppression.
In order to be allies, non-Black people within the UMD community and more broadly must collectively take on the responsibility of becoming actively antiracist in their words and deeds by supporting, affirming, and advocating for Black students, staff, and faculty at this distressing and challenging time. Non-Black allies have the responsibility to educate themselves about the lasting impact of slavery and the Jim Crow Era, and racism that Black people continue to negotiate in their daily lives. They also must acknowledge and eradicate logics of white supremacy embedded within our institutions that continue to mark Black people as inferior and disposable. We encourage non-Black allies within the UMD community to actively demand justice for the lives lost through increased police accountability and radical reform, restructuring, and/or defunding of law enforcement as we know it.
As a multiracial collective of scholars, the Critical Race Initiative shares the righteous anger of Black and Brown communities. As we continue and reimagine our work as students, educators, researchers, mentors, and scholar-activists, CRI is resolved to identify and confront anti-Blackness, intersectional racial inequalities, and fight structural racism. The violence and racism against Black and Brown people, Asian American communities, and our LGBTQIA communities are all deeply interconnected. We are also committed to disrupting the silence on these issues.
If you are wondering where to start and don't know what to do, below is a list of some concrete actions you can take on, what CRI hopes will be, your lifelong path of antiracist activism:
Educate yourself. If you are wondering where to begin, click on this link to view a list of antiracist books, videos, and podcasts on racism and antiracism.
Start conversations. Silence is violence. Engage in discussions about antiracism with your friends, family members, and coworkers. These conversations may be challenging or uncomfortable at first, but each time we speak out against systemic racism, it gets more comfortable, and we take a small step towards creating change. We can't change what we don't acknowledge and confront.
Donate. If you can, make a financial contribution to organizations fighting for racial justice. Various organizations are accepting donations to support victims of police brutality, bail out protesters, support activists and organizers, community restoration and enrichment, and so much more. Click this link to see a list of 137 ways to donate.
Act. If you are unable to donate money, you can always contribute your time or sign petitions that demand justice for the lives lost, increased police accountability, defunding, restructuring, and/or radical reform of law enforcement as we know it.
Support your local Black businesses. A quick google search can help you find Black- or people of color-owned businesses and services in your area. By supporting these businesses, you are directly investing in and uplifting your Black community. Also consider the businesses you frequent and the social causes they decide to support.
Consider the diversity in your network. Do you find yourself participating in activities with only other people of your same race? If you have a partner or children, do you expose yourself and your family to different cultures and diverse communities? If you want to learn more about the experiences of Black and Brown folks and how you can support them, you must actively seek out information and experiences that will inform you. This will not happen on its own. It is also important to remember that when you engage with a new community or group of people, they are real people with real experiences. They do not exist for you to observe and take notes on. Show up, engage, listen, and learn.
In the coming weeks, the Critical Race Initiative will be announcing a call for submissions of commentaries, reflections, and analysis to provide a space for the CRI and broader community to express their thoughts on these colliding crises. Please lookout for the call.
Dawn M. Dow,
On behalf of the Critical Race Initiative.
Associate Professor of Sociology
Faculty Director of the Critical Race Initiative.