LETTERS

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June 24, 2020

A Statement on Systemic Racism and Police Brutality

Sociologists at UChicago speak out on the University, policing, and racism.

As sociologists and as individual faculty members at the University of Chicago, we stand in solidarity with the protests against racist police violence happening across Chicago, the United States, and the world. The contemporary uprising and the broader Black Lives Matter movement are not only expressions of outrage regarding the racist murder of George Floyd, but a powerful indictment of the systemic, racialized brutality that has been inflicted upon Black and other marginalized communities throughout U.S. history.

As social scientists, we endeavor to generate critical knowledge of structures of power and oppression tied to police brutality. We also seek to articulate that knowledge with programs of action oriented towards social justice. Accordingly, we support and advocate for:

(1) The dismantling of our inherited system of racist militarized policing and the search for alternative forms of community protection and care that respect the dignity, civil liberties, health and safety of all people. This would involve many policies but at minimum we urge (a) the termination of the national 1033 Program which channels surplus military equipment to police departments; and (b) new guidelines that restrict the use of force by police officers.

(2) Reinvestment in the public infrastructures of historically marginalized neighborhoods. This requires significant federal and state-level support for local economies—jobs-creation programs, public health care, housing reform, and a massive expansion of funding for education and childcare.

These commitments also require major changes in our home institution, the University of Chicago, to address the continued marginalization and criminalization of Black people and people of color in University and community life. In this context:

(3) We urge the University’s leadership to take a strong stand against the state-sanctioned murder of Black people and the mass incarceration and deportation of people of color, including within our immediate community of Chicago’s South Side.

(4) We call for a community-wide reevaluation of investment in the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) relative to other forms of South Side community infrastructure (for public health, education or housing). This will necessarily require more transparency regarding the UCPD’s operations in the university area and beyond.

(5) We call for reinvigorated community-wide discussions regarding the University’s current and future role in the ongoing transformation of Chicago’s South Side.

The contemporary protests against racist police violence also generate urgent pedagogical challenges for scholars tasked with equipping students with critical capacities and knowledge through which to understand, and shape, the conflicts and struggles of our historical moment. In our role as faculty and mentors in our own department, we will work to address these challenges in the following ways:

(6) By intensifying our critical engagement with the colonial, Eurocentric, and racist legacies of key strands of modern social science in courses, workshops, and public platforms;

(7) By directing greater attention to the rich yet historically marginalized research traditions in the social sciences by scholars of color and Black scholars;

(8) By expanding our course offerings on systemic racism, colonization, and the histories of earlier strategies of anti-racist reform and decolonial social transformation, in close conjunction with public panels and events on related issues;

(9) By intensifying our efforts to build a more inclusionary, diverse, and egalitarian department and university. This must involve the continued diversification of the student body at both College and graduate levels, and the recruitment of scholars of color to our faculty. It is equally urgent to interrogate and dismantle the legacies of white supremacy and white privilege that continue to structure our environments for teaching, learning and scholarship.

 

We deeply value our students and colleagues across campus and community members across the city as essential partners in these efforts. We will continue to collaborate with them—and to offer them our support—as we confront these and related challenges.

Signed,

 

Joyce Bell

Neil Brenner*

Elisabeth Clemens

René D. Flores

Marco Garrido

Andreas Glaeser

Julian Go*

Kimberly Kay Hoang

Omar McRoberts

Kristen Schilt

Jenny Trinitapoli

Robert Vargas

Linda Waite

Geoffrey Wodtke

* Members of the faculty as of July 1, 2020.

All other signees are current faculty members in the Department of Sociology.

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