Our Department's Statement on Black Lives Matter
A statement from Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences faculty:
We acknowledge the importance of and our support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
As a public university, we are supposed to serve all residents. Yet, only 2.4% of our student body identifies as Black and only 3% of our faculty identify as Black. Further, we have witnessed the death of Gregory Johnson (2008) and the harassment of Black students in our dorms. We call for the senior leadership at SJSU “to make the structural and institutional changes necessary for SJSU to truly value Black lives and make this university a site of inclusive excellence where Black students, faculty, and staff can thrive.”
We continue to learn and understand the ways in which the history of science and academia have advanced essentialist definitions of race and constituted the very foundations of white supremacy. We work to interrogate our own bias and refine methodologies in order to decolonize them. As a department that acknowledges the importance of anti-racist efforts to disrupt and abolish racism, we commit to maintaining a critical awareness of how society does race/racializes us. We are willing to challenge our own beliefs and the beliefs of others as we reflect on our racial story and stories. We talk about racism and disrupt it in our classrooms and/or academic work. Lastly, and most importantly, we are willing to use our positions of power as professors and public intellectuals to directly confront racism. Some of us work to deconstruct the most devastating structural aspects of this system through critical praxis in partnership with community stakeholders.
We can document many factors influencing the re-emergence of this Civil Rights movement and a reckoning with systemic racial oppression. By “systemic,” we note that our social institutions are pervaded by racism as a social system (distributing power and resources according to the socially constructed concept of race) and white supremacy as its broad legitimating ideology. For instance, we know that the institutionalization of racism, seen in (for example) our schooling system (e.g. the school-to-prison pipeline and segregation), housing/lending (e.g. segregation and predatory lending), employment (e.g. discrimination, unemployment and segregation), and the criminal justice system (e.g. disparate mass incarceration and police state violence against BIPOC, Black, Indigenous and persons of color) since the Civil Rights Acts of 1965-68, has replaced previous eras of Jim Crow segregation and legal chattel enslavement.
We acknowledge the ancestral, historical, and current day trauma that exists because of this centuries old system and we know that none of us are somehow above or separate from this system in our personal or professional lives. This is a racial caste system that has particularly benefited a small (capitalist) elite but continues to benefit those constructed as white (“psychological and material wages of whiteness”). This contemporary systemic racism privileges and normalizes whiteness, while enriching an almost entirely white owning class.
We recognize the fundamentally destructive and enduring harms of this racist system--over centuries--have fallen and continue to fall on the families, communities, bodies, minds and souls of Black and Brown people. We are outraged at the unjust deaths of Black and Indigenous people at the hands of police. We are sickened by the treatment of undocumented and other POC (people of color) seeking refugee status by ICE and law enforcement agencies on and within our borders. We also understand that white silence--particularly of those in positions of power, is akin to complacency with and a status quo that survives in part off the harm and death of Black and Brown bodies. Racism is not limited to police violence and occupies space beyond our formal institutions. Racialization and white supremacy are in the collective socio-cultural air we breathe.
We understand that our society renders vulnerable, marginalizes and unjustly dominates other groups such as, but not limited to, women, LGBTQ+, undocumented migrants, and impoverished and underresourced persons. We also know the status quo of our society results in environmental destruction that threatens the future sustainability of life on earth and that the burdens of this ecological collapse and environmental harms and toxicities fall most heavily on poor communities of color. We bring up these other oppressed groups and realities, not to divert attention away from the Black Lives Matter movement, but rather to underscore the complexities and intersections of oppression that exist in our current socio-economic political system which benefits the few at the expense of the many. We understand this is not an “either or” moment, but rather a “both and” moment. We understand there is power in unity and solidarity.
In this department, we teach courses that focus on the realities which underscore these inequities and problems within our society. We offer courses that seek to challenge these systems of domination and oppression including courses on the construction of race, Women, Gender and Sexualities courses and Asian American Studies courses. Our College also houses the SJSU Human Rights Institute (www.sjsu.edu/hri), a research and policy institute dedicated to social justice and critical human rights praxis on these, and other related issues. We understand that there is no foreseeable end to the social justice work that is needed, that this is work for the long haul. We understand this work is often not linear and not perfect, yet we understand it is our responsibility to work towards and seek a society that is just, equitable, inclusive and sustainable.
In closing, these are some, but not all, of the reasons we support Black Lives Matter. Beyond offering our classes and ourselves as resources for our students, we want to direct readers to additional resources on anti-racism.
Additional Anti-racist Resources*
Protesting & Safety
Places to Donate
*This list was composed by SJSU’s Step-Up Diversity; the original landing page is no longer available.