Dear partners, collaborators, students and friends,
The WVU Center for Resilient Communities condemns the acts of racial violence, police brutality and white supremacy ever present in our society but recently spotlighted in the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor in the past weeks. Their lives and the lives of all black people matter. We first and foremost want to honor their lives and acknowledge the pain, anger and suffering of those who are living in fear of white terror.
Whether expressed in everyday acts of white brutality, white suspicion, white surveillance, or white dismissiveness we acknowledge that black people and all people of color in the United States are subjected to systemic racism and supremacist violence which takes life. It takes black life through murder. It takes black life through micro-aggressions. And it takes black life by making the everyday a constant struggle for black people to live with dignity and justice and freedom. To matter means to be important, significant. We believe black lives matter.
We stand behind, alongside and with black people expressing their grievances from social media to the streets and we denounce police violence against peaceful demonstrators demanding justice for those killed all over the United States and around the world.
Building truly just, equitable and resilient communities depends fundamentally on uprooting racism, everywhere and at all times, in the United States. There is no other way. And it can’t wait. Confronting racism is not secondary to economic, political or institutional change. Racism is the tap root of the systems and institutions which perpetuate wealth, poverty, success, and vulnerability. The origins of the United States are intimately tied to the dispossession, enslavement and murder of people of Indigenous and African descent. The only way to get to the tap root and remove it is through deep interrogation, by white people, of how anti-black racism and racism toward native peoples is perpetuated by attachments to and preservation of the supremacy of whiteness, the protection of whiteness, and the prioritization of the lives of white people in America.
To dig up the tap root, white people need to pick up a shovel and get to work. They need to dig into history and their place in it. They need to dig into the economic system and their place in it. They need to transform how they interact with, support, and engage with people of color. And they need to dig out the institutional cultures that deny the value of and respect for black lives. That begins with policing but extends to all institutions from schools to the workplace. If we want a world where everyone can live in dignity - to be free - white people must make every effort to uproot racism individually, institutionally and in our communities. Therefore remaining elements of this letter are directed to our white colleagues, partners, friends, and families.
Uprooting racism and standing up for black lives means that white people must confront whiteness, white dominant culture and the perniciousness of white supremacy. White people need to learn to be responsive to the voices of black and brown people, to listen, and to learn how to effectively work in solidarity to promote social, institutional and cultural change. Uprooting anti-black racism will not be easy. It will be uncomfortable. The constancy of white supremacy is a product of long-term efforts to preserve whiteness and the power, innocence, knowledge, and wellbeing of white people. It will not just disappear.
Challenging white supremacy will require white people to develop the qualities of sacrifice, humility and openness to question racist ideologies as well as the mindfulness to challenge racism when it is spoken, performed, instituted, dismissed or weaponized. Such mindfulness will require constancy. It will also require deep love and the kind of sacrifices necessary to be in good relation with people of color and to be advocates for racial justice. But let there be no doubt that it will also require work and real changes in our conduct, organization, planning, workplace and classroom. And it will require accountability.
To these ends we are recommitting ourselves and encourage the collaborators of the WVU Center for Resilient Communities to join us.
Over the next months and years, the CRC will look to unpack the root causes that have haunted conversations of race and whiteness in our country, while concurrently digging into the growing research surrounding the intersection of blackness and American history, culture and meaning. We will invite students and collaborators to participate in conversations to prepare ourselves for social action to address anti-black racism. We invite you to share your ideas with us and to consult on lines of inquiry and action that aid us in this work. Several opportunities are already taking shape out of wider consultation with collaborators and partners across the country including co-sponsoring a five-day online symposium responding to racial violence, funding anti-oppression workshops for WVU staff and students, and launching study circles focused on literature and art by black intellectuals.
As the days and weeks progress we will continue to share updates about our programming and invite all to participate. In the meantime we express deepest gratitude and respect to our black colleagues, co-workers, friends and family for leading us, once again, in the most challenging times.
With admiration and respect for those on the frontlines,
Megan Govindan, Raymond Thompson, Amanda Marple, Joshua Lohnes, Thomson Gross, Fritz Boettner, Bradley Wilson
Co-Directors of the WVU Center for Resilient Communities