Black Lives Matter.
The last few months have been extraordinary, as the way of life for some of us has completely altered.
But for Black Americans, what is extraordinary about a health crisis that disproportionately affects their community? What is extraordinary about not receiving adequate wages while performing the majority of our essential work during a pandemic – whether in a hospital, nursing or residential care home, as a delivery courier, at grocery stores, or as EMTs? What is extraordinary about police violence against Black and brown Americans, after centuries of enslavement, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, redlining, and implicit and explicit bias in hiring / banking / education? What is extraordinary about turning on the news or checking social media and seeing another Black American murdered at the hands of law enforcement, because they are running; going to the grocery store; sleeping; exercising their First Amendment right to free speech and protest; existing?
There is nothing extraordinary about this moment for Black Americans. This is their everyday experience, and has been for centuries. But we have a responsibility – as citizens, as educators, as advisors, as community members – to make this a moment for extraordinary responses.
The University Honors Program has spent the last weeks listening to our community, gathering anti-racist educational resources and action items to share out through our social media platforms, and reflecting on the work our Program can continue to do to reflect our values. Out of these reflections, we recognize the need for concrete and sustained action steps that will resonate beyond the now and are a part of our Program’s foundation. We are an anti-racist program. But we know there is more work to do to permeate those values through all we do.
Here are action items we are taking right now:
- Sharing out anti-racist resources and action items to our community through social media and our Honors email communications.
- Reconceptualizing the Social Consciousness and Commitment module in Honors Discovery, creating space for our first-year Honors students to unpack their lived experiences and create concrete opportunities to advance social justice efforts
- The University Honors Program team are currently incorporating readings and discussions around dismantling white supremacist education, including “White Supremacy: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh and Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad, into our all-staff meetings and will continue to do so.
- A continued commitment to recruit faculty of color, particularly Black and Latinx professors, to teach Honors courses in all subjects, not only those pertaining to race and ethnicity.
- Keeping the lines of communication open throughout the Honors community. We encourage community members to share their ideas, perspectives, and hopes for the Program via the following methods:
Developing full-scale programming in concert with our campus partners will take time. We are committed to action that will be positive, supportive, and impactful for the long term. We appreciate your patience as we develop these initiatives more fully.
Below, we have a list of anti-racist resources available for you to engage with. Some of these were referenced as a part of the University’s Day for Reflection, Engagement, and Action with Prof. Margaret Burnham, who memorably ended her discussion, “How Do We Restore Justice for George Floyd?”, with the words “Stay in the streets until the work is done.” The rest are resources the Honors Program team use in their own everyday work and lives.
It is easy to advocate in the moment, when there is passion and energy and motivation. The Honors Program is heartened and inspired by our community’s responses to this moment. But to make it extraordinary, we must pledge to sustain and extend these efforts over time. The Black community has advocated, protested, voted, organized, and had the burden of institutional injustice on their shoulders for centuries. We must commit to amplifying and supporting their movement, working to dismantle white supremacy in the short and long term to create an equitable and just society for all.
- NPR’s Code Switch: a podcast by a multi-racial, multi-generational team of journalists fascinated by the overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture, how they play out in our lives and communities, and how all of this is shifting.
- Kimberlé Crenshaw’s The Urgency of Intersectionality: Now more than ever, it’s important to look boldly at the reality of race and gender bias — and understand how the two can combine to create even more harm. Kimberlé Crenshaw uses the term “intersectionality” to describe this phenomenon; as she says, if you’re standing in the path of multiple forms of exclusion, you’re likely to get hit by both. In this moving talk, she calls on us to bear witness to this reality and speak up for victims of prejudice.
- White People, It’s Time to Prioritize Justice over Civility, by Tariq Moosa: “It’s the epitome of white privilege to be able to encounter racism and consider calmly listening to what this nicely dressed man thinks about segregation and integration, ‘black on black crime,’ and so forth.”
- So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo: Oluo guides readers through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.
- The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison: A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison’s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston: Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person — no mean feat for a black woman in the ’30s. Janie’s quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.
- The Souls of Black Folk, by W. E. B. DuBois: With a dash of the Victorian and Enlightenment influences that peppered Du Bois’s impassioned yet formal prose, [these essays] take the reader through the momentous and moody maze of Afro-American life after the Emancipation Proclamation: from poverty, the neo-slavery of the sharecropper, illiteracy, mis-education, and lynching, to the heights of humanity reached by the spiritual “sorrow songs” that birthed gospel music and the blues.
- Black Wall Street: the African American Haven that Burned and then Rose From the Ashes, by Victor Luckerson: “On this evening 97 years ago, thousands of white Tulsa residents crossed those tracks and launched a night of terror that would leave more than 1,200 of Greenwood’s homes and businesses destroyed, hundreds of black residents dead, and a thriving community burned to an ashen heap.”
- 8 To Abolition: “We envision abolition as not only a matter of tearing down criminalizing systems such as police and prisons that shorten the lives of Black, brown, and poor people, but also a matter of building up life-sustaining systems that reduce, prevent, and better address harm.”
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander: “We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”
- Reconstruction: America after the Civil War: Hosted by noted historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the series explores the transformative years following the American Civil War, when the nation struggled to rebuild itself in the face of profound loss, massive destruction, and revolutionary social change.
- Ain’t I a Woman: Black women and feminism, by bell hooks: hooks examines the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the historic devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism within the recent women’s movement, and black women’s involvement with feminism.
Thank you for being part of the Honors community.
The University Honors Program