We Will Say it Since Bravman Won't- Black Lives Matter and they have Names!
Dear members of BUDS and the broader Bucknell community,
The past few days have witnessed some of the most profound civil action this country has seen in decades. Backlash against the cruel death of George Floyd –– killed after 8 minutes and 46 seconds of suffocation at the hands of a police officer –– has spread to nearly every major city, and protests have grown in
size and strength throughout the week. Such protests have themselves been subject to police brutality, as protestors are run over with cars, pushed to the ground and beat with clubs, maced, tear-gassed, and shot with rubber bullets.
At such a crucial time in American history, it is incumbent on all of us to recognize these recent days of brutality for what they are –– not a few bad cops, not a personal problem, not even just hate, but white supremacy. Going after white individuals clearly involved in acts of violent white supremacy is not enough. Firing one cop, or even prosecuting him, will not be enough. We can treat these acts of state-sanctioned violence as aberrations, but they are the direct consequence of a system built on the exploitation and expropriation of communities of color.
BUDS will always engage in conversations about race because a non-racial atmosphere betrays the deeply racialized society in which people of color have to navigate every day. Acknowledgment of the existence of white supremacy and settler-colonial violence must also acknowledge every community’s (especially the white community’s) complicity in that violence, and our group will actively take a stance of anti-racism when it comes to the question of the value of black lives. That there is a question in this country about the value of a black individual’s life speaks to the fact that a non-racial atmosphere is violent, and that silence is violence. Nor is this senseless violence just an opportunity for white people to pad their resume, to moralize black people, and to fill their Instagram stories up with well wishes while continuing to perpetuate white supremacist lifestyles in their daily lives. “Black Lives Matter” is not just a hashtag.
A commitment to anti-racism means condemning the lack of response from the administration, BSG, and President Bravman to the black community, and expressing our full solidarity with the movements happening all over the country. There has been and continues to be a total and utter failure by Bucknell’s Administration and Bucknell Student Government to address the issues of black and brown people on campus; beyond meaningless platitudes promising change, and a “breath of life”, there must be material demands generated from the community itself to be taken seriously by an administration which shows little concern for the lives of black and brown people (that starts with saying the word “racism” in your emails to the student community, at a bare minimum).
To the end, BUDS will support black leadership in ending white supremacist notions of control and order on Bucknell’s campus. The continued armament of Public Safety officers and compliance with the Buffalo Valley Police Department, whose officers regularly racially profile and target members of Bucknell’s black and brown people, present threats to the existence of their communities on and off-campus, who are unable to form meaningful relationships with their peers for threat of their life.
This is every students’ concern. White communities on this campus, either implicitly or explicitly, support the continued terror of black people daily. Whether or not it is in their narrow-minded interest to help black people is no matter, they can’t wash the blood from their hands; they have a responsibility to act.
Some of our so-called national leaders are already describing the protests for black lives as the work of “outside agitators”. This concept was similarly used to discredit the largest actions of the Civil Rights Movement, casting movements against settler colonialism as schemes manufactured by Soviet agents attempting to destroy the United States. It was as untrue then as it is now; the ruling class is attempting to convince us that authentic, broad-based, and –– crucially –– overdue demands for change, for lives, are the work of left-wing and foreign insurgents. In a moral crisis involving the lives of our black and brown communities, no one is innocent from judgment and everyone is responsible for action; every way of life is alienated but nothing is foreign. Continued inaction from white student groups on Bucknell’s campus simply prolongs the inaction, the discrimination, the violence, and the abuse.
The struggle for black lives has been occurring long before the most recent murders of black people in the streets of America and is as much economic and cultural as anything else. Black Americans are facing rates of infection and death from COVID-19 twice as large as “would be expected based on their share of the population. In four states, the rate is three or more times greater.” As in the Great Recession, people of color can expect to face the brunt of hardship from evictions, back rent, and other measures at the lapse of emergency federal and state statutes; they have, after all, already experienced the worst of job losses over the past several months. Systematic vulnerabilities, precarities, and discriminations are baked into a deeply racialized American capitalism which affects black lives every day.
Thus, to say this movement is the consequence of an individual murder of black life is to disregard 4, 40, and 400 years of racial violence in this country. The protests are not merely a response to Trump, or a half-century of neoliberal austerity, or decades and centuries of unpunished police brutality, but to all systems of racialized violence against black and brown people. It’s about a country which is founded upon this racialized violence, and resists any attempt to rid the country of systematic racism and white settler colonialism with force.
While our organization obviously does not condone the destruction of property as a general matter, we question the priorities of those critics who cry foul on the protests across the nation for being destructive – all while defending the trenchant police brutality and state-sanctioned racial violence which led to this historic moment. Property is not comparable to black lives. White folks who are silent and continue to be silent after the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, or George Floyd, or any of the dozens of other victims, are in absolutely no position to condemn damage to a few buildings.
The voices which yelp the loudest now from the liberal and conservative crowd fall silent when it comes to changing the basis of white supremacy within their own communities; for their communities are based upon the violence of black and brown people, and it is much easier for them to castigate some broken windows then a half-millennium of historic violence underlying it. Black people built this country for free, and it’s their right to rebel against it in any way they damn well please. A real response from the white community should involve those white folks dismantling the systems of racialized violence within their own communities, and challenging their peers’ white supremacist notions; not moralizing black people on the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to express rage and grief.
We would like to finish with a quote from long-time political activist and philosopher Angela Davis; “There is an unbroken line of police violence in the United States that takes us all the way back to the days of slavery, the aftermath of slavery, the development of the Ku Klux Klan … There is so much history of this racist violence that simply to bring one person to justice is not going to disturb the whole racist edifice.” As this movement develops in the coming weeks and months, we ask that you remember the roots of the black struggle –– slavery, colonialism, expropriation, discrimination, and dispossession –– and recognize that chastising a few “bad cops” and posting on social media does very little to disturb the perpetuation of white supremacy. Let us instead come together and build community with the oppressed peoples of America, aiding in their struggle against white supremacy and racially embedded, carceral capitalism.
Bucknell University Democratic Socialists Executive Committee
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