Even as we were grappling with the systemic racism laid bare by the COVID pandemic in the disproportionate loss of life in African American, Latinx, and Indigenous communities and the targeting of Asian American communities, we are confronted by the more brutal expression of this enduring racism. These include four police officers murdering George Floyd, two white men killing of Ahmaud Arbery as he was jogging, police murdering Breonna Taylor in her own home, and the killing by police of Tony McDade, a transgender man, among many others. We write to express our outrage and grief, recognizing the renewed pain and trauma to members of our own communities already struggling with the pandemic and the everyday forms of racism and white supremacy.
As Sociologists, we are trained to understand the structural and systemic basis of social relations. Therefore, we bear a special responsibility to recognize, interrogate and dismantle systemic racism. Hence, the faculty of the Department of Sociology commit through our research, teaching, and activism to work in solidarity and struggle with all those working for racial and social justice in our department, on our campus (the hiring of Dr. Tuitt as UConn’s Chief Diversity Officer provides an important opportunity in this regard), in Connecticut, and beyond. Additionally, our department is dedicated to engaging in everyday anti-racist efforts and holding ourselves accountable.
We will continue to work in collaboration with our colleagues in the Institutes on campus and across the country and our professional organizations (we will continue to post links to statements from on campus and professional associations as they come).
Concretely, in our department we shall:
- Foster a departmental culture of equity and inclusion, using and refining the steps the faculty and graduate students have discussed earlier, and formulate new ones after intentional reflection on the ways in which we can address systemic racism in the department.
- Organize a series of workshops/seminars on the work of our colleagues that is directly related to police brutality such as Noel Cazenave’s work on police brutality as mechanisms of racism, to related work of Mary Bernstein’s Anti-Gun Violence project in CT, Ryan Talbert’s work on mental health impact of police shootings, Fumilayo Showers and Marysol Asencio’s work on health disparities, David Embrick and Matthew Hughey’s work on white supremacy, and Marysol Ascencio and Bandana Purkayastha’s work on structural and everyday racism.
- Form partnerships through our internships and new Criminology, Law, and Social Justice Club (organized by Darrell Irwin) with local community-based efforts to eliminate the prison-industrial complex.