Public statement from faculty in the Department of History at the University of Louisville
The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and David McAtee are not only tragedies but are part of a longer history of systemic racism and oppression against Black peoples in the United States. The legacy of the trans-Atlantic chattel slavery, failed efforts at Reconstruction, proliferation of Jim Crow laws, and incomplete processes of integration have all indelibly marked both our past and our present.
More specifically, as historians we recognize that policing in the United States has been shaped by the persistent effort to control people of color, especially African Americans. From slave patrols and the brutalization of fugitives from slavery, to collaboration with white mobs and violent repression of movements for racial equality, police forces have often failed in their duty to protect Black bodies and instead have aided in the exploitation of Black communities. This history of policing is a reflection of the racism and bigotry that takes many forms both at home and abroad (apartheid regimes, sex and gender discrimination, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and the marginalization of immigrants and refugees). Such hate and bigotry are at the root of an authoritarianism that undermines basic human rights in favor of maintaining an increasingly unsustainable status quo.
Beyond recognizing the racialized inequality in both policing and the criminal justice system, we acknowledge that institutionalized racism exists in many forms, including within higher education. Historians have been complicit in whitewashing, forgetting, mis-framing, and contributing to the loss of voices of color.
The recent protests in Louisville, across the nation, and around the world are also part of a long history of resistance and struggles for social justice. We support the young people who have taken the lead in the present movement. We recognize their courage, anger, and sacrifice. We also call attention to and sympathize with the demands put forth by Black Student Union’s letter to President Bendapudi (dated June 2, 2020), which demanded that UofL commit to actionable measures to redress decades of institutionalized racism on campus. As a department, we commit to building a more inclusive and diverse curriculum and community of scholars, beginning with recruitment and retention of students of color. It is our hope that by engaging with our students in a critical study of our past, the UofL History Department can be of service to a generation of young people dedicated to building a more just and equitable world.
Breonna Taylor Memorial Scholarship Fund
Black Lives Matter – Louisville
Black Lives Matter
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