from the Sociology Faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University
We, the faculty of the Sociology Department at VCU, wish to express our solidarity with the recent anti-racist uprising sparked by the savage public murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. We mourn not only this unjust murder, but the extended cycles of anti-Black violence and disenfranchisement that have been inherited and carried by Black Americans for generations. Research shows that the mortal risk of simply being Black in the presence of law enforcement is undeniably real. A recent study finds that murder by police officer is the sixth leading cause of death for Black men in the United States (Edwards et. al. 2019).
We respect and affirm the righteous rage and loving solidarity pouring out of Black communities across the country, including here in Richmond. We understand that the explosion of resistance in our streets is not spontaneous or ‘shocking’ but rather the culmination of generations of racist white supremacy and anti-Black oppression in our society. We also know that Black communities are not homogenous or one-dimensional, and that there are many kinds of processing, reaction, resistance, engagement, and rebellion taking place right now. We condemn the systematically violent responses of police departments across the country to the Black Lives Matter uprising, including the Richmond Police Department’s recent decision to deploy tear gas into a peaceful gathering of young people on Monument Avenue - just up the road from our campus - earlier this week.
As diverse faculty dedicated to public sociology, we are committed to creating a more just and inclusive society through our teaching, research, service, and public engagement. We stand in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives and patently condemn the racist police violence and systemic and structural anti-Blackness that has become a hallmark of our American society. We proudly support all those fighting for racial justice and an end to white supremacy and police brutality. We celebrate an emergent new generation of young fierce Black leaders and their allies who are coming together in the fight for a better tomorrow. We say to you, young organizers and activists, that you are the future, and that we are here to build with you and support you in this struggle as teachers, researchers, and mentors. We too strive for a day when these United States do not equate humanity with whiteness and where anti-Black violence is not normalized. We know that you have much to teach us, and we want you to know that we are here to listen, to learn, to act, and to contribute whatever helpful knowledge and resources we can to fighting racism and oppression in all its forms. We also want to express our profound respect and gratitude to the many local grassroots coalitions and community organizers who have spent years, and in some cases decades, sacrificing their time, blood, sweat and tears to highlight and empower Richmond’s Black communities. We know that it is their hard work and sacrifice that has provided the foundation for today’s newly emerging leaders.
As sociologists, we view this uprising as part of a long lineage of Black liberation struggles in this country and throughout the world. We are excited to see young people rising up and passionately invoking the democratic ideals of liberation, justice, and freedom from state and corporate oppression as they come together to challenge and demand that we as a nation do better. These ideals that supposedly make America great need to be pried out from the hands of a state-sanctioned racist order if they are ever to be more than hollow signifiers used to prop up the rhetoric of “inclusion”. We understand our responsibility to be part of this struggle. We stand in solidarity with all of those who are engaging in this fight.
Finally, we want to recognize the precious life of Marcus-David Lamar Peters, a young Black man who was shot and killed at the age of 24 by a Richmond police officer in May 2018.Marcus was completely naked, unarmed and experiencing a mental health crisis when he was shot and killed by the officer. Marcus graduated from Middlesex High School with a GPA over 4.0 and served as senior class speaker. He graduated from VCU with high honors, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and minoring in Chemistry, Psychology, and Spanish. Marcus went on to become a public high school teacher in Tappahannock County and aspired to launch a mentorship program for at-risk youth because he believed that with the proper support and resources, all students had potential for success in life. To this end, we stand in favor of a Civilian Oversight Board and the adoption of the Marcus Alert. The Marcus Alert would allow Richmond Police Department and the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority to work together on emergency calls related to mental health crises.
Black Lives Matter!
Justice and Reformation for Marcus-David Peters!
The SOCY@VCU Faculty
Follow #MarcusAlert on social media!
On Venmo: @RichmondMutualAid or PayPal: /RichmondMutualAid
And of course, on the streets!
Edwards, F., Lee, H., & Esposito, M. (2019). Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race–ethnicity, and sex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(34), 16793. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1821204116.