To the University Community:
This morning, some of you may have noticed our beloved so-called founder sporting some … very fitting attire. On this day, the 279th birthday of Thomas Jefferson, we hope for this visual to serve as a stark reminder of who he truly was — a virulent eugenicist and racist who was a constant threat to the lives and wellbeing of Black people throughout his lifetime.
On this Founder’s Day, you will likely be inundated with flowery statements describing “Mr. Jefferson’s” noble contributions or perhaps, in the least egregious cases, vague platitudes of how he was a ‘complicated figure.’ We seek to move away from these attempts at rehabilitation and, instead, would like to honor the legacies of the true founders of this University — the enslaved laborers who built the Grounds on which we walk and their many descendants since then who have put their heart and souls into making this University a better place, both for themselves and those who come after them.
In honoring our ancestors and their legacy, we find that it is not only necessary to recognize the work that they have already done, but also to remain grounded in the work that is yet to be completed. With this in mind, we present to you 15 Notes On the State of U.Va. May they keep us grounded and guide our community forward to continue the transformative work of our founders:
- Black labor has and continues to be seen as invaluable to the prosperity of the University.
- Black students compose less than 7 percent of the University, yet are routinely expected to shoulder the heavy burden of their majority white peers’ ignorance.
- The demands of the Black Student Alliance remain unmet by the University.
- The University has not apologized for its major role in the proliferation of eugenics, both in Virginia and worldwide. Eugenics continued to be taught during the years of the first trailblazing Black students’ arrival — a scar that continues to affect the mental state of Black students today.
- Black activists have been blatantly and persistently surveilled by U.Va. police, Charlottesville-Albemarle police, and undercover University representatives.
- The University allowed for the invitation and promotion of ex-vice president Mike Pence to Grounds, despite him being a known racist and offender to Black livelihood (much like Jefferson himself...).
- There is a noticeable lack of momentum on action items and public statements by the President’s Commission on the University in the Age of Segregation.
- The University has taken the minimum level of action to implement any of the recommendations provided by 2020 Racial Equity Task Force — capitalizing on performative activism while leaving its Black and Indigenous students unsupported
- Several typos and misinformation are in the newly installed Black Bus Stop memorial plaque, despite the University being notified of such problems by current Black students before its installation.
- The Woodson Institute and their faculty continue to receive a lack of funding and general respect for their scholarship and labor. The study of Black history and Black life is severely undervalued here and around the world.
- The University has repeatedly failed to extend tenure to distinguished Black faculty, pushing many Black scholars to other institutions and shrinking an already minuscule pool of Black professors.
- U.Va., as well as the Virginia state government, is reliant on Virginia Correctional Enterprises and forced prison labor to create University furniture. (for more, see: rule § 53.1-47 of the Code of Virginia)
- U.Va. failed to protect the community members and students from COVID-19 - pedaling pathetic public health policies that centered and protected the interest of wealthy and white Greek organizations.
- The University has established a Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within the University Police Department instead of addressing the actual concerns of marginalized students and community members who are continuously harassed.
- Over a thousand Black students continue to live and attend classes in buildings named after enslavers and eugenicists who sought to dehumanize and destroy Black bodies.
We’re not lighting birthday candles (or torches) because hell is already hot.
Happy Birthday, “Mr. Jefferson.”
All Our Love,