Department Statement on the 2020 Rebellion

As you are aware, communities across the country are engaged in widespread public protest of unabating violence against Black people, exemplified most recently in the widely-publicized murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. Although conversations about police and other state violence are always already ongoing in Black communities, these murders re-ignited a broader public conversation about the role of police in communities and the intractable structural violence inherent in the very premise of American policing since its inception. That this kind of state violence against Black people continues in a moment where an unprecedented pandemic is disproportionately claiming Black people’s lives for the same racist reasons underscores the urgency with which we as educators in service to others and carers for whole people must act in our policies and curricula, our conversations with each other, and in the broader communities in which we exist, and DC in particular.

As dictated by the decades long mission of the interdisciplinary field of African American Studies in times of peace and upheaval, Georgetown University’s Department of African American Studies, through classes, programming, and service work of its faculty have consistently been dedicated to challenging systemic anti-blackness, racism, racial inequities, gender and sexual violence, and xenophobia. We will continue to be a space of intellectual refuge where critical and creative imaginative practices for ending racism and transforming society are encouraged. 

In our current moment, with our faculty and student commitments in mind, we have already encouraged Georgetown University administrators to begin the process of reallocating money budgeted for campus police, as well as discontinuing any financial and contractual relationships with the DC police department. While GUPD is not an armed office, and spurred by the actions of the Black Survivors Coalition they have begun some reforms around bias training, we note that continuous hiring of police to surveille and police students is something that should be reconsidered.  We hope that funds for sustaining this presence might be allocated for establishing a crisis intervention center, restorative justice services, and better overall mental health services for students.

In this time of crisis, we realize that many people are seeking ways to make a difference on campus and off. In addition to the current reactionary calls for more conversations on racism and racial justice, we offer the following proactive steps for long term change on Georgetown campus understanding that universities have been spaces where solutions for broader society can be developed.

  1. For administrators, in addition to reallocating resources that go to campus police, we suggest deepening commitments to the Black Survivors Coalition and other student of color organizations, supporting the growth of the Department of African American Studies, being an active leader in curtailing the attacks on academic freedom (student/faculty protests), reversing the corporatization of higher education, and increasing accessibility for and accountability with D.C.’s black communities.
  2. For colleagues outside of our department, we encourage you to review and reassess your own departments to see if they are contributing to systemic racism and anti-blackness through the absence or erasure of critical intellectual work that challenges racism and anti-blackness in curriculum and coursework, through the refusal to allocate resources to such work, or through hierarchical classist and anti-black hiring practices related to areas of research or methodologies classified as neutral and objective. We also encourage our colleagues to begin sustained, engaged, and equitable collaborations between departments whose missions have consistently challenged systemic oppressive regimes of power (African American Studies, American Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies). 
  3. For our alumni, we encourage you to continue your donations to the Department of African American Studies and to continue to advocate for the growth of the department to university administrators. 

Faculty in African American Studies will continue to enthusiastically support, with labor and ideas, any institutional strategies that embrace grassroot solutions provided by local and national organizations supported by department faculty, transformative anti-racist curriculum changes, and sustainable, equitable partnerships between ourselves and other leaders on campus.