We are members of the faculty and staff at Seattle University’s College of Arts and Sciences, and we are angry.
We are angry about the murder of George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota, who pleaded for help as he was brutally killed by one police officer while three others watched, callously enabling his murder.
We are angry about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man killed by two white men in Georgia while jogging. We are angry about the murder of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed by police in her own home in Kentucky. We are angry about the murder of Tony McDade, a Black trans man shot to death by police in Florida.
We are angry about the larger culture of anti-Blackness that sows the seeds for these murders.
This larger culture of anti-Blackness includes Donald Trump, who called this week’s protestors “thugs” while encouraging police to shoot at them. Compare this to how, just a few weeks ago, Trump referred to the armed, right-wing protesters who terrorized lawmakers in Michigan as “very good people.” (And let us not forget that he called the people who attended a 2017 White nationalist rally in Charlottesville “very fine people.”) The heavily armed White people who protested quarantines were largely left alone by police, whereas police in Minneapolis used tear gas, rubber bullets, and projectiles against people protesting the murders of Black people.
This larger culture of anti-Blackness is also perpetuated by everyday people, such as woman in New York’s Central Park who attempted to weaponize Christian Cooper’s race and ever called the police on Black people that were just living their lives. These White people have the White bring potential police violence against him. It includes all of the other White people who have enough facts and history available to them to know when they call the police on Black people they are choosing to put those Black people’s lives in jeopardy. We are angry that these White people apparently do not care.
We are also angry that murder is not the only form of violence perpetrated against Black people by the state. We are angry that recent murders are not new or “shocking.” They are part of the landscape of anti-Black racism in the United States. White people’s “shock” is willful ignorance of the reality that state violence against Black people has persisted for centuries in systematic and normalized ways. While recent incidents heighten experiences of racism-based trauma, Black people are subjected to relentless and pervasive experiences of racism, every day and everywhere.
Black people have always been disproportionately monitored and targeted by the police. And now, “social distancing” instructions have become the new “stop and frisk” in New York City, where Black people comprise 93% of arrests related to the coronavirus. We see similar patterns emerging in other cities, where Black people are being disproportionately targeted by the police for arrest during the pandemic.
We are angry that this pandemic has disproportionately impacted Black people in the USA, with over 23,000 Black people already dead from this virus. This highlights the structural inequities that disadvantage Black people in our healthcare and economic systems, which contributed to these Covid-related deaths. We also know that underlying conditions that put people at risk for Covid-19 infection, such as heart conditions and diabetes, are directly related to stress and trauma, which are everyday realities for Black people living in a society with pervasive and unrelenting racism. Coupled with inequities in our healthcare and economic systems, until a vaccine is found and made accessible to all, the disproportionate risk of Covid-19 infection and death for Black people is staggering.
This raises important questions about how our country re-opens. As Princeton University’s Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor wrote on Friday in the New York Times: This unbelievable loss of life has taken place while restrictions were at their tightest and social distancing at its most extreme. What will happen when the country fully reopens, even as the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow? As mostly White public officials try to get things back to normal as fast as possible, the discussions about the pandemic’s devastating consequences to Black people melt into the background, consequences which become accepted as a ‘new normal’ we will have to live or die with. If there were ever questions about whether poor and working-class African-Americans were disposable, there can be none now. It’s clear that state violence is not solely the preserve of the police.
We are angry that lack of access to healthcare is only one of many structural obstacles facing Black communities today. We are angry about the dismal funding levels of public schools in Black neighborhoods, and the lack of resources available to students in those schools. We are angry about the history of racial deed restrictions and covenants, segregation, redlining, block-busting, and gentrification that have impeded Black home ownership throughout American history. We are angry about how legal and explicit racist barriers to employment (and/or union membership) were replaced by more subtle and implicit hiring biases that continue to exist today.
We are angry that the 1935 Social Security Act was explicitly drafted to prevent Black workers from qualifying for those benefits; these past exclusions affect present access to unemployment benefits. We are angry about how racist rhetoric and dog-whistles have been used for the last four decades to defund and destroy welfare and the social safety net. We are angry about the mass incarceration of Black people and the prison industrial complex that supports and is supported by the criminalization and incarceration of Black bodies.
We see all of these issues – healthcare, education, housing, employment, welfare – as connected to policing in the United States. These areas are the larger context in which this violence against Black bodies is allowed to happen. They provide the justification for the violence, as well as the justification for the indifference about the violence. We are angry about this constant threat of harassment, neglect, discrimination, apathy, and violence with which Black people continue to live in the United States. And we are angry that Black people still need to protest for the most basic of rights, including the right to not be killed by state agents.
For years, activists and community members (including Seattle University students, faculty, and staff) have protested police violence against Black people – to little avail. Police sensitivity trainings, body cameras, hiring people of color in the police force – all of these strategies have been tried, and yet we still see state violence against Black bodies. The time for tinkering with moderate reform has long since passed. We need bold visionary thinking about how to solve the crisis of police violence.
In the 21st century, large cities like Chicago and New York have spent over a billion dollars paying the plaintiffs of police brutality and misconduct lawsuits. Why is this acceptable when such debt and misconduct would never be tolerated if caused by any other public institution? If schools, hospitals, libraries, post offices, or fire departments wasted so much money they would have their budgets slashed and their staff fired.
Minneapolis is no different from those cities in this regard. The protests erupted this week because Minneapolis has tolerated similar police brutality for years. This includes several infamous cases, such as the murders of Jamar Clark, who was murdered by police in 2015, with no charges brought against the officers, and Philando Castile, who was murdered in front of his girlfriend and baby in 2016, and then the police officer was acquitted. In recent decades, the only Minneapolis officer to be convicted for police violence was a Black man. And there are reports emerging now that the officer who murdered George Floyd already had 18 prior complaints against him, yet he was still allowed to serve.
For all of these reasons, we support the Minneapolis group Reclaim the Block in their demands that their city council defund their police department. The group asserts “Now is the time to invest in a safe, liberated future for our city. We can’t afford to keep funding MPD’s attacks on Black lives.” We fully concur and believe the same should happen in Seattle.
Indeed, in solidarity with countless community activists, including many of our own current and former students, we see that the only way forward to protect Black lives involves defunding the police. Defunding, or divesting, from the police entails channeling funds that are currently used to criminalize Black communities into public health institutions, universal health care, and a stronger social safety net. (An example of this was seen in 2017, when community groups such as “Block The Bunker” successfully stopped the creation of a new police station in north Seattle.) Access to healthcare and a stronger social safety net will serve Black people better than any police department ever has. And we know that we need to also increase funding for education and funding for the arts, because education and the arts are the best ways to combat racism and change people’s hearts and minds.
But changing people’s hearts and minds is not enough. We also need stronger policies and laws to hold accountable those who engage in the types of bigoted violence and indifference we have seen on display this month. The state violence of May 2020 is not an aberration; it has become the chilling, devastating norm in the United States and the pattern of violence must stop. In order to get these policies and laws created, we support the protestors who are calling for an end on these attacks on Black bodies. We are inspired by the protestors who are demanding justice in the midst of a pandemic. And we encourage you to support these protests in any way you can. A list of opportunities for you to get involved and provide support locally and nationally is provided at the end of this letter.
Calling for changes and expressing solidarity with the protesters is the first step, and we must take specific actions toward more structural changes that unroot the deep and pervasive racism and white supremacy in all of our systems, including Seattle University, and our lives. In the wider community we must join the efforts to:
Change the criminal legal system to end racism-based disproportionality in policing, sentencing and incarceration as well as lack of police response to and protection for people of color;
Advocate for healthcare as a human right to address racism-based health inequality;
Transform economic systems (e.g., banking) that reproduce racism-based economic and wealth inequality;
Stop voter disenfranchisement measures that disproportionately suppress voting rights of Black people and other people of color; and
Reform the educational system that reproduces racism-based inequality in education and educational opportunities, and start this effort with our own college.
Finally, we think that this work always begins at home, and for us that means starting in the College of Arts and Sciences at Seattle University. We know that there are differing opinions about these issues, but we call on the administration to initiate rigorous, thoughtful, and transparent conversations about some important questions.
- Should we disband our own internal security force, and cut ties to the Seattle Police Department?
- How can we bring awareness to the university community about the fact that 911/public safety calls with false accusations are unacceptable? How can we train the university community how to intervene when they see such racialized acts and (if we continue to use them) train the SU public safety staff how to respond to these calls from a racial equity lens?
- Should we really reopen face-to-face classes in the fall, before there is a vaccine for the coronavirus? How are decisions about this being made through a racial equity lens?
- Are we prepared to support Black students’ mental and emotional health with a racial equity lens and an anti-oppressive practice perspective now and when they come back to school?
- Should we require a course about the history of racism and its present consequences for all our students? Should we require for all our students a social justice course about race, class, and gender, that examines power and oppression, and trains our students to think historically and intersectionally about the structures of power that shape contemporary society in the United States?
- Should we require that social justice pedagogy be considered in faculty evaluations used for APR, R&T, and long-term contract renewal?
While we encourage reflection and discussion on the questions above, we also expect action.
In living up to our mission’s emphasis on social justice and empowering leaders for a just and humane world, we have the potential to lead with the internal reforms we make. We can set the example for the nation’s universities to follow.
The answers to these questions are important. We will not arrive at the answers easily. But, given the way that these issues impact Black people, we must grapple with these questions as a full community if we claim to be an institution that values social justice.
Ken D. Allan, PhD, Associate Professor of Art History
Rob Andolina, Ph.D., Associate Professor, International Studies
Connie G. Anthony, PhD, Associate Professor, Political Science
Harmony Arnold, MFA, Department of Performing Arts and Arts Leadership & Associate Professor of Theatre
Philip Barclift, PhD, Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies
Justine Barda, Adjunct Professor, Film Studies, Associate Professor and Chair, Modern Languages and Cultures
Hidy Basta, Ph.D., English, Instructor
Sonia Barrios Tinoco, Ph.D.
Julie Bianchi, MNPL, Adjunct Faculty, Master of Nonprofit Leadership
Monica Bowen, Instructor, Department of Art and Art History
Colina Bruce, MNPL Adjunct Faculty
María Bullón-Fernández, Professor, English Department
Serena Chopra, PhD, MFA, Assistant Professor, English and Creative Writing
Natalie Cisneros, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Philosophy
Dominic CodyKramers, MFA, Senior Instructor, Theatre
Serena Cosgrove, PhD, Assistant Professor in International Studies
Meg Cristofalo, Assistant Professor, Social Work Department
Elizabeth Dale, PhD, Assistant Professor, Nonprofit Leadership
Joseph Nicholas DeFilippis, PhD, Assistant Professor, Social Work
Peter Drury, M.Div., MSW, MBA, Adjunct Professor, Nonprofit Leadership
Russell Duvernoy, Instructor, Philosophy Department.
Kate Elias, Ph.D., Assistant Dean for Student Academic Affairs
Bob Boehler, Production Manager, Dept. Performing Arts and Arts Leadership
Kathryn L. Bollich-Ziegler, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Mary Kay Brennan, DSW, MSW, LICSW, Director, Bachelor of Social Work Program, Clinical Professor
Amiya Brown, MFA, Instructor, Performing Arts & Arts Leadership
Karen L. Bystrom, Director of Marketing and Communications
Maria Carl, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy
Dr. Caitlin Ring Carlson, Associate Professor, Dept. of Communication
Carol Wolfe Clay, MFA, Professor Emerita & Theatre Scenic Designer, Performing Arts & Arts Leadership
Kathleen E. Cook, Ph.D., Professor, NSF RED PI, Practicum Director, Chair, Department of Psychology
Julie Homchick Crowe, PhD, Assistant Professor, Communication Department
Sarah Curtis-Tilton, Senior Administrative Assistant, Nonprofit Leadership & Arts Leadership Departments
Yancy Hughes Dominick, Ph.D. Senior Instructor, Philosophy; Associate Director, University Honors
Theresa Earenfight, Ph.D., Professor of History; Director, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program
Rob Efird, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology and Asian studies, Department of Anthropology and Sociology
Victor D. Evans, Assistant Professor of Communication
Anne Farina, PhD, Assistant Professor, Social Work
Maureen Emerson Feit, PhD, Director & Assistant Professor, Nonprofit Leadership
Kendall Fisher, PhD, Assistant Professor, Philosophy
Bobby A. Gaon, MSW, CMHS, Part-Time Lecturer, Department of Social Work
Claire Garoutte, Associate Professor, Art and Art History
Kimberly Gawlik, JD, Senior Administrative Assistant: Institute of Public Service, Environmental Studies
Wynne Greenwood, Instructor, Department of Art & Art History
Dr. Bryn Gribben, Senior lecturer of English
Francisco Guerrero, Associate Professor, Visual Art
Maylon Hanold, Ed.D., Sport Business Leadership (in Albers School of Business and Economics, but formerly in College of Arts and Sciences)
Laura Hauck-Vixie, Lead Senior Academic Advisor
Tanya Hayes, Ph.D., Professor, Institute of Public Service and Environmental Studies
Katie Hoag, MSW Program Coordinator
Johnica Hopkins, Academic Advisor
Roxy Hornbeck, MFA, Assistant Professor, Performing Arts and Arts Leadership
Randall Horton, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Wes Howard-Brook, Senior Instructor, Theology and Religious Studies; College of Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee
Wai-Shun Hung, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Philosophy
Jessica Ludescher Imanaka, Associate Professor, Philosophy
Nalini Iyer, Ph.D., Professor of English
Michael P. Jaycox, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Theology and Religious Studies
Sonora Jha, Ph.D., Professor, Communication; Associate Dean for Academic Community
Alexander Johnston, PhD, Assistant Professor, Film Studies
Joshua Johnston, PhD, Lecturer, Philosophy
Rosa Joshi, MFA, Chair, Dept.of Performing Arts and Arts Leadership & Professor of Theatre
Ben Howe, Interim Director, Matteo Ricci Institute
Dr. Audrey Hudgins, Associate Clinical Professor, Matteo Ricci Institute
Naomi Hume, PhD., Associate Professor of Art History, Department of Art, Art History and Design
Hye-Kyung Kang, MSW, PhD, Chair, Dept. of Social Work; Director, Master of Social Work Program; Associate Professor
Dr. William Kangas, Senior Instructor, History Department
Paulette Kidder, Associate Professor, Philosophy Department
Victoria Kill, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, English, Retired
Kate Koppelman, Ph. D., Associate Professor, English
Kevin Krycka, Professor of Psychology, Associate Dean
Beatrice Lawrence, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Theology and Religious Studies
Charles Lawrence, Associate Professor of Sociology
Claire LeBeau, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Psychology Department
Erica Lilleleht, PsyD, Associate Professor, Psychology
Christie Lynk, MA, LMHC, Clinical Director, Master of Arts in Psychology
Rick Malleus, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Communication
Rebecca McNamara, Ph.D., Lecturer, Matteo Ricci Institute
Allison Meyer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, English
Susan Meyers, Associate Professor, English
Dr. Rachel E. Luft, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and Sociology
Molly Mac, Seattle University Art Galleries Curator, and Adjunct Instructor, Department of Art and Art History
Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arts Leadership, Department of Performing Arts & Arts Leadership
Anna McCain, Administrative Assistant, Department of Social Work
Sarah McKinley, Administrative Coordinator
Verna McKinnon-Hipps, Administrative Assistant, Communication Dept.
Marc McLeod, PhD, Associate Professor of History and Acting Director of International Studies
Amy Michael, MBA, Adjunct, Nonprofit Leadership Program
Inés Miranda, Ph.D., Senior Instructor, Modern Languages and Cultures
Quinton Morris, DMA, Associate Professor of Violin and Chamber Music, Director of Chamber & Instrumental Music
David Moser, Instructor, Social Work
Alexander Mouton, Associate Professor, Digital Art & Design, Department of Art & Art History
Janice Moskalik, PhD, LLB, Instructor, Philosophy Department
Elise Murowchick, Lecturer, Department of Psychology
Felipe Murtinho, Associate Professor, International Studies and Institute of Public Affairs
John Nettles, Academic Advisor
Erik Olsen, Associate Professor, Political Science
Chris Paul, PhD, Professor, Communication Department
Kathleen M. Pape, PsyD, Lecturer, Psychology Department and MAP Program
Tracee Parker, Psy.D., Adjunct Faculty, Dept. of Social Work
Alfred G. Pérez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Social Work
Harriet M. Phinney, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor Anthropology
Katherine Raichle, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology
Heather Reis Fike, Executive Coordinator, Arts & Sciences
Kate Reynolds, Administrative Assistant
Christina Roberts, Associate Professor, English; Director, Indigenous Peoples Institute
Nova Robinson, PhD, Assistant Professor, History and International Studies
Tara Roth, Senior Instructor, English
Benjamin Schultz-Figueroa, PhD, Assistant Professor of Film Studies
Jennifer Schulz, Ph.D. Senior Lecturer, Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies
Eric Severson, PhD, Instructor of Philosophy
Joy Sherman, DMA, faculty emerita
Aakanksha Sinha, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Social Work
Randall Souza, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, History and University Honors
Benedict Stork, PhD, Film Studies Instructor
Sharon A. Suh, Ph.D., Professor, Theology and Religious Studies
Tom Taylor, Associate Professor of History
Maria Tedesco, Lecturer, Matteo Ricci Institute
Donna Teevan, PhD, Chair and Associate Professor, Theology and Religious Studies
Juan Carlos Reyes, MFA, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, Editor at BIG FICTION Magazine, English Department
Kelly Thompson, LICSW, Adjunct Professor, Social Work Department
Dr. Kirsten Moana Thompson, Professor and Director of Film Studies
Hannah Tracy, Ph.D., Vice President, Faculty-Staff Senate, Department of English
John Trafton, Ph.D., Lecturer in Film Studies
Ruchika Tulshyan, MS, Distinguished Professional-in-Residence, Communication Department
Charles Tung, Associate Professor of English
Lauren Van Fossen, Academic Advisor
Jerome Veith, Ph.D., Senior Instructor, Philosophy
Matt Whitlock, Associate Professor, New Testament, Theology and Religious Studies
Estella C. Williamson, DSW, MSW, ACSW, Clinical Professor and Field Education Director, Social Work; Chair, CSWE Council on Field Education
Jason M. Wirth, Professor, Department of Philosophy
Zachary D. Wood, PhD, Assistant Professor, Institute of Public Service
Rebecca Zanatta, MEd, Adjunct Faculty, Nonprofit Leadership
the Indigenous Peoples Institute and its supporters
the faculty and staff of the Nonprofit Leadership Program
the faculty of the Political Science Department
the Social Work Department
the faculty of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program
THINGS YOU CAN DO:
ACTIONS FOR GEORGE FLOYD AND POLICE BRUTALITY:
ACLU-MN is calling for justice for George Floyd. This link has a letter demanding independent prosecution and call numbers: https://www.aclu-mn.org/en/call-for-justice-for-george-floyd?initms_aff=nat&initms_chan=eml&utm_medium=eml&initms=200529_georgefloyd_callaction_gradead_sail&utm_source=sail&utm_campaign=georgefloyd&utm_content=200529_racialjustice_callaction_gradead&ms_aff=nat&ms_chan=eml&ms=200529_georgefloyd_callaction_gradead_sail
GEORGE FLOYD’S DEATH: HERE’S 5 WAYS YOU CAN TAKE ACTION. (There’s ways you can help virtually). https://www.clickorlando.com/news/local/2020/05/30/george-floyds-death-heres-5-ways-you-can-take-action
26 WAYS TO BE IN THE STRUGGLE BEYOND THE STREETS:
PLACES YOU CAN DONATE:
(with thanks to Wes Howard-Brook, Theology and Religious Studies)
MINNESOTA FREEDOM FUND - A widely respected bail fund for those arrested in protests against oppression. https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/?fbclid=IwAR1Pu-HAIgeZpBj8kAdCAvJr5E464SqsxbrJXq5-dAeU_e2I3dTYmjS9xAs
SUPPORT GEORGE FLOYD'S FAMILY - This GoFundMe has been verified by multiple sources, including groups on this same list, as going directly to the family. Beware other crowd- funding pages; many are scams.https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd?mc_cid=8f5ae16431&mc_eid=b4d972530d
HOLY TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH - Holy Trinity is receiving donations and distributing as needed. They are near Lake and Minnehaha, supporting protestors, providing space for medics, and responding to needs. Every penny they receive is redirected based upon needs. When asked to choose a fund, select "Other" and simply type "Justice."https://htlcmpls.org/donate/?mc_cid=8f5ae16431&mc_eid=b4d972530d
CTUL - Labor organizers focusing on BIPOC and immigrant workers. Their office is half a block from the site of George Floyd’s murder and they have been a core site of supplies and relief efforts to our neighbors in the streets. https://ctul.net/
NORTH STAR HEALTH COLLECTIVE - Among other things, North Star is providing rock solid street medics. - https://www.northstarhealthcollective.org/?mc_cid=8f5ae16431&mc_eid=b4d972530d
RECLAIM THE BLOCK - A police abolition group focusing on shifting municipal budgets away from the carceral state and towards needed social services. https://www.reclaimtheblock.org/home
MPD 150 - Another police abolition group working to support the ongoing institutional struggle to defund/abolish the police in Minneapolis and beyond. https://www.mpd150.com/?mc_cid=8f5ae16431&mc_eid=b4d972530d
INFORMATION ABOUT DEFUNDING THE POLICE: No More Money for the Police (New York Times) - https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/30/opinion/george-floyd-police-funding.html
The Only Solution Is to Defund the Police (The Nation) - https://www.thenation.com/article/activism/defund-police-protest/
The Pandemic Is the Right Time to Defund the Police (The New Republic) -https://newrepublic.com/article/157875/pandemic-right-time-defund-police
The Price of Defunding the Police (City Lab) - https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/07/the-price-of- defunding-the-police/533232/
Cut the NYPD budget now: We need to save money, and we just don’t need this many cops
(Daily News) - https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-cut-the-nypd-budget-now-20200521- r42aumohlrg5vi7k7gxlkxfege-story.html
Defunding Police—How Antiracist Organizers Got Seattle to Listen (Yes Magazine) - https://www.yesmagazine.org/social-justice/2017/03/09/defunding-police-how-antiracist-organizers-got-seattle-to-listen/
#DefundThePolice (Black Lives Matter) - https://blacklivesmatter.com/defundthepolice/