CSSW Council of Deans Issues Call to Action to Address Anti-Black Racism
It would be remiss of us not to acknowledge that the below statement fails to include the tragic death of Tony McDade, a Black transgender man who was killed by police in Florida. As has become commonplace, the reports of the deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming folx rarely appear in major news outlets. That omission is essentially erasure. McDade’s death is the 11th reported transgender and/or gender nonconforming death so far this year. As David J. Johns, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, noted in a recent statement following his death: “This tragic incident should be a reminder that hate crimes against Black LGBTQ/SGL people happen too frequently—often without the national public outcry that our cis and/or heteronormative brothers and sisters receive.” We own our part in contributing to that narrative, and promise to actively do better — to amplify and publicly acknowledge the violence against transgender folx, particularly Black trans women, in this country.
Members of the CSSW community are encouraged to co-sign this statement from our Council of Deans by submitting their signatures as comments to this article. Please include your name and your affiliation to the CSSW community.
Dear CSSW Community,
As protests continue in Minneapolis, MN, and across the country in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, we are outraged and dismayed. But we also are driven toward a call to action to actively address the persistent anti-Black racism that is impacting so many in our community—too often resulting in their senseless and unjust deaths.
Just in the last few months, we’ve witnessed:
- George Floyd killed in Minneapolis on Monday, after a white police officer pinned him to the ground by kneeling on his neck for several minutes. Video footage of this incident indicates that Floyd was not resisting arrest for an alleged case of fraud, and pleaded several times that he was in pain and couldn’t breathe. Four officers have been terminated from their jobs, and one, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
- Christian Cooper falsely reported to the police by Amy Cooper, a white woman, who accused him of threatening her and her unleashed dog while he was bird watching in Central Park.
- Ahmaud Arbery killed in late February by two white men in Brunswick, Georgia, for the “crime” of “jogging while Black.” The Department of Justice is now investigating this shooting death as a hate crime.
- Sean Reed killed by Indianapolis police in early May, while the chase and his shooting death were livestreamed on Facebook. The disturbing video of his death includes the recording of a presumed officer saying “it looks like it’s gone be a closed casket homie” – followed by laughter. At that point, Reed had been tased then shot at least 10 times.
- Breonna Taylor killed by Louisville police. Taylor, an EMT, was shot at least eight times when officers forcibly entered her home to serve what was being called a “no knock warrant” in a narcotics investigation. The FBI is investigating her death.
These are just a few of the named, recorded or reported acts of violence recently perpetuated against Black men and women—and they join a long list of incidents that plague Black communities throughout the U.S.
A third of those who have died during the current COVID-19 public health crisis were Black, and there are numerous instances of Black men having been criminalized for wearing masks to protect themselves against the virus. But, as some activists have noted, the Black community was already facing the public health crisis of racism before the pandemic began.
The lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Breonna Taylor, and countless others matter. As do the Black lives taken by COVID-19. We at CSSW condemn anti-Black racism in all its forms and are committed not just to making statements, but to taking action.
As School leadership convenes in the coming days and weeks, we will be asking the CSSW community to join together in collective activism to fight against the perpetuation of anti-Black racism. More details will be released as initiatives take shape, but in the interim we would encourage you all to be self-reflective, to seek out support and care as you need it, to be vigilant and to be safe. We can no longer just rest on our vocal commitment to social justice; we must be ready to act, and the time to do so is now.
Yours in community,
CSSW Council of Deans
Ann McCann Oakley
Resources for those in need of support during this time
- Counseling and Psychological Services: Can be reached 24/7 at 212-854-2878 & additional resources at https://health.columbia.edu/content/counseling-and-psychological-services
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- Support for staff, instructors: 24/7 Employee Assistance Program at 888-673-1153 & worklife well-being resources at https://worklife.columbia.edu/content/mental-emotional-well-being