Statement of Solidarity with the Black Community

Department of Geography, San Diego State University

This time, it is George Floyd; before him, it was Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and so many other Black men and women whose names should not be forgotten. As a department, we denounce these incomprehensible police killings and the systemic racism and violence that have led to these tragic deaths. We call for solidarity with our Black students, faculty, staff, neighbors, and community. We also call for humility, learning, listening, care, and action in these trying times.

To the extent that “anti-blackness is rooted in misinformation, fables, perversions, projections, and lies” (DiAngelo 2018), it is our responsibility to engage in scholarship, teaching, and community work that challenges and corrects all these untruths.

As geographers, we must begin by acknowledging that academic institutions and our own discipline have played a role in perpetuating systems of racial oppression.

As teachers, we must reaffirm our commitment to fostering inclusive learning and working environments that embrace the diversity of experiences, perspectives, and interests, both in our communities and around the world. We value the presence of Black students and all students of color; diversity and inclusion strengthen our teaching and scholarship. While we take pride in the supportive and welcoming environment our department offers, we must continue to work toward greater inclusion.

As scholars, we must continue to dedicate ourselves to fighting for justice and repairing our broken world through scholarship, learning, community engagement, and advocacy. We must use our voices, privilege, and power to fight against racism and injustice, whether it is in our classroom, on campus, in our country, or around the world. Many of us have dedicated our careers to shedding light on the profound inequalities that underlie our society; studying the climate, health, environmental, and economic crises that hit poor, Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities disproportionately hard. We must continue to do so, while being mindful that “all our phrasing--race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth … always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body” (Ta-Nehisi Coates 2015).

Silence contributes to, and is itself, a reproduction of racism. There are many ways we can break the silence and participate in the fight for equality and racial justice. In doing research, we can highlight spatial processes of exclusion and violence, describing and mapping racial and social inequities. We can work with, and take direction from, communities directly affected by anti-blackness. We can improve our courses to raise difficult and more informed questions, encourage productive conversations and critical dialogues, open and empower minds, and equip students to be the change they want to see.

Becoming better allies to the Black community in the fight for systemic change starts with active learning and unlearning. To help, we are sharing a list of work by Black geographers Leave geography site and the link to the Black Geographies Specialty Group Leave geography site of the American Association of Geographers.

We hope that by recognizing the role geography has and continues to play in race relations, we can do better by our students, our community, and the world. Over the coming months, we will work with our faculty, staff and students, and in consultation with SDSU's Cultural Centers, to develop specific actions that we as a department can take to improve our own commitment to diversity and inclusion.

References

DiAngelo, Robin. 2018. White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2015. Letter to My Son Leave geography site. The Atlantic.