June 22nd Update
Over the weekend, we’ve been reflecting; reflecting on the list of Black student demands that was released on Juneteenth, reflecting on the history of our university (and the history of racism and anti-Blackness that accompanies it), and reflecting on our role in this conversation. When we sent out our last statement committing ourselves to supporting Black life on campus, we made a promise to you that we would be intentional and active in our allyship. While we haven’t yet figured out how to respond to this list of demands and other conversations occurring in our community, know that we’re taking this very seriously and working towards a response. Please join us in this reflection by reading the letter and resources linked below and by letting us know your thoughts at email@example.com. This is important.
Link to Black student demands: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_zDEZkDYrCNLLkg-9ueR4aW_tXs9BOKi/view?usp=sharing
Link to a Fondren archive including books and archival materials to facilitate research on relationships of Rice University to slavery and racial injustice: https://libguides.rice.edu/c.php?g=945664
June 12th Update
On Monday, May 25th, George Floyd, a Black Houston-native living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was murdered by members of the Minneapolis police force. He is one of many recent victims of a long history of state-endorsed acts of violence against Black people, and, more specifically, unarmed Black people.
To be completely honest with you all, I struggle to describe how disgusted, angered, and saddened I am by George Floyd's murder. There is no excuse for the evil that members of the Minneapolis police force displayed on Monday, nor for the maliciousness and disregard for human life that have echoed among our country and its leadership in response. I say this as someone who has never had to fear for my life when approached by police, never had to question my safety when going for a run around the outer loop, and never had to wake up to videos of people who look like me being murdered by those who are charged to protect us. In these and many other ways, I will never understand what Black students are going through at this time and on a daily basis.
Black people are disproportionately impacted by police brutality. The research on this topic is robust, and if you are not aware of this issue you must learn more about it for yourselves (resources below). However, police brutality is just one manifestation of structural racism, or "the normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics… that routinely advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color," in the US. In addition to police brutality, Black people face significantly more violence and/or systemic disadvantages in our healthcare structures, our workforce, our housing and education systems, and more. Taken together, our institutions, and our societal ignorance and complacency faced with this sobering reality, create significant, unacceptable harms for Black people in the US, including members of our own community.
The fact that Minneapolis is states away from our shared home in Houston does not diminish the impact that George Floyd's murder has had on our Rice community. In many ways, it highlights the potential for harm that some of our students have recognized and written about, such as microaggressions, hate speech, and other documented manifestations of Black-targeted racism on our campus, such as the widespread use of the n-word. Rice has made tangible strides in addressing its racial past, with its Task Force on Slavery, Segregation and Racial Injustice, Center for African and African American Studies, and a newly approved interdisciplinary minor in African and African American Studies. However, there are still many ways in which we as a community can and should use the lens of antiracism, or the active process of becoming “actively conscious about race and racism and tak[ing] actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives," to better support our Black peers.
On behalf of the Student Association, we are unequivocally in support of Black students, here at Rice and everywhere. We can state this support in a number of ways, but at this point words are not enough. We vow to strengthen our advocacy against hate speech on campus. To continue to push for extensive cultural sensitivity and empathy-building training for our faculty, staff and students and for expanded course offerings in African and African American Studies. To hold our university accountable for supporting its diverse student and faculty bodies, which includes bolstering our diversity, equity and inclusion resources and training on campus. To quickly and firmly address injustices in our community as they arise. To do more as individual students to ensure that Black students feel genuinely welcomed, included, and empowered to succeed at this university. To do more as a university to highlight and celebrate the achievements and success of our Black student body.
Looking ahead, there is a lot of work to be done. This issue transcends Rice, and for that reason, we must seek out areas of engagement beyond our campus context. I hope that we as a Rice community can find ways to meaningfully connect with the City of Houston. As members of the City, we must support Houston's efforts to identify proactive steps to prevent police brutality. Because in order to fulfill our organizational mission, which calls on us to be a "community that supports one another" and "encourages thoughtful and intentional discussion," we must do more to stand up for Black lives. Silence is not an option.
Anna Margaret Clyburn
Student Association President