A Statement Affirming our Support of the Black Lives Matter Movement | Communication Studies

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June 9, 2020

A Statement Affirming our Support of the Black Lives Matter Movement

In Support of Black Lives Matter and Our Commitments to Anti-Racist Education

Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and George Floyd - we say their names because we recognize the importance of their stories. We say their names because we mourn their needless deaths. We say their names because we acknowledge how their deaths intersect in the centuries-long story of state-sanctioned violence, structural racism, and white supremacy. We say their names because we are working to deconstruct systemic racism. We say their names because we are committed to ongoing self-reflexivity as we learn from the voices, experiences, and truths of Black, Indigenous, and People of color (BIPOC) who are most disenfranchised by deeply entrenched systems of racism. We say their names to invest ourselves in anti-racist practices of education, research, and outreach.

As we have witnessed national and global uprisings against anti-Black violence, systemic racism, and white supremacy over these past weeks, we recognize that these actions are not prompted by isolated killings. Rather, these uprisings rightfully demand overdue justice, equity, and social change in response to hundreds of years of structural oppression and dehumanizing rhetorics that target Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples. As a department, we stand in solidarity with those fighting structural violence at the intersections of racism, misogyny, heterosexism, transphobia, classism, and ableism. As a department, we affirm that Black Lives Matter.

We study communication from a variety of perspectives that center the potential for human connectivity and social change. As such, we are committed to fostering conversations about the power of language and images, organizational practices, interpersonal relationships, cultural rituals, performance, art, and embodied actions to both sustain and dismantle intersecting matrices of oppression. We aim to empower students to investigate the ways in which whiteness and white supremacy operate in taken-for-granted expectations about whose stories, art, histories, and experiences are centered, heard, seen, and understood. We challenge all of our faculty and students to study, share, and amplify the stories, art, histories and experiences of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.

This moment of uprising comes amidst a global pandemic that is disproportionally killing Black, Brown, and Indigenous people and fueling racist and xenophobic violence against Asians and Asian-Americans. While we are encouraged to physically distance as a shared commitment to public health, we must simultaneously draw ourselves closer to the hearts, fears, angers, and hopes of those who rightfully seek recognition, demand justice, and push for long overdue systematic change. As trained Communication Studies scholars, students, and activists, we must use our voices to speak truth to power, to amplify the experiences of those most disenfranchised, and to challenge racism wherever we encounter it -- even if such acts bring us discomfort or threaten relationships with people who perpetuate racist ideologies. We must encourage our leaders and communities to seek credible data, engage in critical thinking about our consumption of media texts, and listen closely to BIPOC activists on the frontlines.

As faculty members committed to anti-racist pedagogy and practices, we will use our institutional privileges and power to:

--Acknowledge that the violence directed at Black bodies is predicated on ongoing violence against Indigenous people to dispossess them of their lands, including the unceded occupied/seized territory of the Wichita, Caddo, Commanche, and Cherokee tribes.

--Align ourselves with the demands circulated by UNT's Student Government Association, UNT Black Student Union, and UNT's chapter of the NAACP to increase the number of BIPOC faculty in our department and across campus to better reflect the demographic representations of our student population. While we are proud that UNT is both a Minority Serving Institution (MSI) and Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), we recognize the harms that are reproduced by recruiting BIPOC students to a campus where their faculty rarely reflect their lived experiences as people of color.

--Follow the leadership of Black faculty, students, and staff already doing anti-racist work across campus and in our communities, while recognizing that white faculty ought to bear greater responsibility in guiding white students in developing anti-racist communication practices.

--Advocate for campus-wide anti-racist commitments, including sustained and ongoing faculty and staff trainings, increased accountability measures, and the re-allocation of monies to meaningfully support BIPOC students, faculty, and staff.

--Decolonize our curricula, integrating diverse scholarly voices, perspectives, and methodologies in ways that are central to our course materials rather than additive.
Foster fluency in the histories, contexts, and ongoing structures of anti-Blackness and work to eradicate the macro- and micro-aggressions perpetrated against Black faculty, staff, and students.

--Invite and equitably compensate scholars of color to speak, perform, workshop, and stand in solidarity with our students on topics relevant to our work in Communication Studies curriculum. We will intentionally seek to diversify the pool of people we invite to campus (both in-person and virtually), increasing opportunities to actively involve scholars, alumni, practitioners, and performers who are able to speak to the issues most important to our BIPOC students.

--Promote community-based connections, engagements, and coalition-building aimed toward anti-racist practices, learning, and change.

--Affirm our commitment to listen and act when our students of color encounter racial biases or experience microaggressions in our classes, department, and university functions. We are committed to doing the difficult work of holding each other accountable for our own implicit biases in the classroom and other spaces of learning.

We are here to listen. We are here to fight. We are here to learn (and unlearn). We are here to help build multiracial coalitions aimed at cultivating an empathic community of teaching, learning, and growing.

Acknowledgments: We appreciate the labor of other organizations that have circulated statements in support of Black Lives Matter and anti-racist pedagogy. Some of the language in this statement has been adapted from the statements created by Towson University's Department of Communication Studies, California State University, Northridge, and the Rhetoric Society of America.