The faculty and staff of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department stand in solidarity with the nationwide protests following the senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, David McAtee, and Tony McDade. We know that the past two weeks have been especially trying for students of color, and African American students, faculty, and staff in particular, who have borne witness to a widespread state-sanctioned assault on Blackness.
Tragically, for most African Americans, this is nothing new. Since the arrival of enslaved Africans in the Virginia colony 401 years ago, American communities have been complicit in the exploitation and killing of Black bodies. Long before the Movement for Black Lives emerged in the wake of the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, Black people in the United States have known that the police were often not to be trusted, were indeed the problem, not the solution. That this latest round of protests indicate that at least some white Americans are slowly coming to realize this as well may be cold comfort. It is important to acknowledge the pain of racism. But it is not enough to be aware of it and yet remain silent.
We believe the field of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies offers important tools that are useful in both imagining and creating a more just society that problematizes white privilege, honors different lived experiences, and acknowledges the complexities and impacts of multiple oppressed or marginalized identities. Black feminists, in particular, have laid the foundation for this analysis. The faculty and graduate students of this department, from our founding during a sit-in in 1972, have dedicated themselves to analyzing inequality and fighting for justice through our own research as well as our teaching. Our classrooms foster and embrace difficult conversations that require deep introspection focusing on painful realities about ourselves and our society’s creation and perpetuation of structural inequalities and violence. Through our work as a department and field, we strive to create, share, and amplify tools for justice.
Because WGSS was founded in activism and protest we wanted to offer more than solidarity in this statement. Many are wondering what we can do in this moment to hasten the change we want to see in the world and so we have compiled a list of strategies and related resources for this moment and for the near future.
Strategy: Protest. WGSS programs, and in fact, the United States, were born from protest and we believe in its power to create community, catalyze change, and move public opinions.
Resources: Black Lives Matter in Lawrence is here.
Strategy: Strengthen your anti-racist networks and communities.
Resources: Call your friends, make new friends, and acknowledge that this is a time filled with grief, rage, hopelessness, hopefulness, excitement, exhaustion, all of it, and LISTEN to each other.
Strategy: Give money. Particularly in this moment of continued social distancing, this can be incredibly important as we know that creating a scarcity of resources, including monetary ones, is an important lynchpin in propping up white supremacy.
Strategy: Support businesses owned by people of color
Resources: Here is a crowd-sourced listing of POC-owned businesses in Lawrence.
Strategy: Read works written by people of color: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, plays, and theory.
Strategy: Read works about white privilege and the intersection of class and race
Strategy: Learn more about ways to reform policing in the United States, particularly the movement “8 Can’t Wait,” which advocates for eight crucial policy changes that could be instituted right now.
Resource: 8 Can't Wait
Strategy: Contact government officials who represent you. Voicing your support and opposition to policies--whether county, municipal, state, or federal--can change the minds of elected officials. When enough people write and call, officials are sometimes forced to change their positions.
Resource: The League of Women Voters of Kansas helpfully details KS elected officials and how to get in touch with them here.
Strategy: Learn how to better navigate difficult conversations about race and structural inequality. This is a moment of cross-racial collaboration and outrage, but it is also an incredibly important moment to initiate, continue, and double down on intra-racial conversations about race and white supremacy, particularly in white communities. White folks, it is not the job of communities of color to teach you about their lived oppression while also surviving that oppression; you must do the work of educating yourself with the many resources that exist already.
Resources: There are so many here that we have given just a handful of a wide range of sources in the hopes that we can support you to move forward from wherever you are in your exploration and discussion of racial inequalities: a STARTER reading list, some conversation tools, and hundreds of blog posts and articles.
Strategy: Understand how we got here and the many forms that structural racism takes.Racism is insidious and deadly. Simply deciding it is a problem is just the first of many necessary steps in doing a lot of anti-racist work required to dismantle white supremacy. Knowing the complexity of the problem is required to dismantle it.
KU’s WGSS faculty and staff