Last week, we, the faculty, affiliates and fellows of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at University of Virginia stood in shock and solidarity with those throughout the world who were deeply aggrieved and outraged by the decision of the grand jury in the case of Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson. That Wilson could repeatedly shoot and ultimately kill Michael Brown, an 18-year-old, unarmed African American youth in the open light of day and not be required by law to account for his actions, remains patently incomprehensible and unjust. Still reeling from that news, which underscored how little black lives matter, we learned yesterday — less than a week later — that a New York grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the murder of unarmed Eric Garner, choked to death last August in Staten Island. It is impossible here to speak the names of the many thousands gone who constitute this ever lengthening chain of corpses — Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Shantel Davis, Tarika Wilson, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Rekia Boyd, John Crawford — some left to draw their last breaths on the cold concrete slabs of city streets.
We stand with citizens around the globe in condemning this wanton disregard for the sanctity of these and other black lives, treated cavalierly, taken with impunity, and rationalized through appeals to grotesque, legal technicalities. Such technicalities can neither mask the virulent racism nor suppress the evidence of the deeply flawed legal apparatus of the state that sanctions such murderous force and smothers human rights.
As a teaching and research collective, comprised of professors from various disciplinary backgrounds — history, politics, economics, sociology, law and other humanistic and social sciences —we decry efforts to extract the events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, Beavercreek and beyond, from a centuries-long history of state-sponsored violence against black and brown people, from a history of racialized — and ritualized — violence in the U.S. and abroad. As educators, we pledge to expose the historical roots and persistent ravages of racism, unmask the structures that foster and reproduce it, and fight the misuse and abuse of power wherever it rises up to choke the lives of citizens, whenever it rises up to smother freedom, democracy, and social justice.
Sandy Alexandre (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Derrick Alridge (University of Virginia)
Lawrie Balfour (University of Virginia)
Mrinalini Chakravorty (University of Virginia)
Thadious Davis (University of Pennsylvania)
Dudley Doane (University of Virginia)
Kandioura Drame (University of Virginia)
Cynthia Hoehler-Fatton (University of Virginia)
Robert Fatton (University of Virginia)
Mark Hadley (University of Virginia)
Laura Helton (New York University)
Latasha Levy (University of Virginia)
Deborah E. McDowell (University of Virginia)
John Edwin Mason (University of Virginia)
Taneisha Means (Duke University, Woodson Fellow)
Jeffrey Olick (University of Virginia)
Kwame Edwin Otu (University of Virginia)
Sandhya Shukla (University of Virginia)
Ellen Yoshi Tani (Stanford University, Woodson Fellow)
Maurice Wallace (University of Virginia)