"As historians, we are aware of the transformative power of silence as much as action. We add our voices to those already disrupting this silence, and assert our commitment to resisting white supremacy and other systems of oppression that have long been part of this country’s history and its actions around the world. We do not write with empty words in the service of self-interest, but with the intent of devoting practical resources and concrete commitments in the service of solidarity."
On June 1, 2020, graduate students of the History Department at UC Berkeley sent this Statement to the History Community. In response, History faculty have also circulated their own message of solidarity of this statement, available here.
Statement of Support for Black Lives from History Graduate Students
To members of the Department of History:
We write from a place of rage as well as hope.
As graduate students in the Department of History at UC Berkeley, we mourn the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Steven Taylor, Tony McDade, David McAtee, and George Floyd, whose murders at the hands of white supremacists and law enforcement personnel extend a history of fatal violence -- state-sanctioned and otherwise -- against Black people in the United States. We express full support for the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, David McAtee, and others whose lives have been stolen. We recognize, too, that Amy Cooper’s recent attempt to call the police on Christian Cooper may have ended in yet another Black individual’s death at the hands of law enforcement. We acknowledge that these racial injustices compound the disproportionately tragic impact of COVID-19 misgovernance upon marginalized communities. Insufficient access to medical aid, housing disparities, poor working conditions, and other historically-rooted forms of oppression disproportionately impact communities of color in the Bay Area and across the country, placing them at an increased health risk. These compounding forms of systemic racism jeopardize the lives and livelihoods of families, individuals, and communities of color.
As historians, we are aware of the transformative power of silence as much as action. We add our voices to those already disrupting this silence, and assert our commitment to resisting white supremacy and other systems of oppression that have long been part of this country’s history and its actions around the world. We do not write with empty words in the service of self-interest, but with the intent of devoting practical resources and concrete commitments in the service of solidarity.
First and foremost, we express our commitment and responsibilities to our Black colleagues, students, and acquaintances. We recognize that this particular moment harkens back at a longer, traumatic history of injustice for our Black colleagues and their communities. We acknowledge, respect, and honor their resilience in yet another moment of hurt and hardship. In an effort to protect and prioritize the safety of our Black colleagues, students, and acquaintances on campus, we will demand proactive reforms of UCPD rather than a mere acknowledgement that “things must change.” We will also encourage UC Berkeley to re-examine, as the University of Minnesota has, its relationship with Berkeley Police, and to proactively redirect some of its funds to other campus initiatives.
We express our support for those protestors across the United States who have taken to the streets to defend and advocate for Black lives and resist a long history of racist police violence. We equally support those who are providing bail funds and legal aid, food and water, medical services, and other means of support to protestors exercising their right to dissent. We condemn members of the police departments, the U.S. National Guard, and other state forces who have repeatedly instigated violence and endangered the lives of protestors and civilians. We reject the ambivalence and, in some cases, outright endorsement of local, state, and federal leaders toward the clear pattern of instigation and hostility among law enforcement personnel. We condemn President Trump’s unconstitutional, discriminatory, and dangerous vow to designate Antifa, an unofficial coalition of autonomous groups opposing fascism, as a terrorist organization. As protests continue to grow across the country, we are committed to providing whatever support necessary to organizations advocating for Black lives and against rampant police violence. We are mobilizing donations and have established a fundraising goal of $5,000 to donate to People’s Breakfast Oakland for bail and mutual aid funds. If you are a History Department affiliate or if for any other reason you prefer to add your donation to our pool, then please follow the instructions through this link. For those that prefer to donate directly, we encourage you to support the following Black-led organizations who are leading and organizing anti-racist work across the country: Anti-Police Terror Project (Oakland and Sacramento, CA), Black Visions Collective, Reclaim the Block, Chicago Community Bond Fund (Chicago, IL), Atlanta Solidarity Fund (Atlanta, GA), Black Lives Matter National (multi-city). A list of 37 bail and mutual aid funds is available here or you can donate to a specific local bail and mutual aid fund listed here.
Finally, we assume the responsibility of resisting white supremacy within academic settings as much as beyond these spaces. As instructors tasked with fostering safe and meaningful learning environments, we will continue to center challenging yet necessary discussions of race, racism, and racial oppressions in our classrooms using accessible and productive resources to do so. We are committed to instructing ourselves as well as our students in historical methods and content that challenges normative experiences, identities, and narratives, particularly those relating to United States history and global histories of fascism while simultaneously uplifting and centering marginalized historical actors, voices, and narratives. We call on faculty and administrators to affirmatively further long-term solutions to racial inequities within the academy, being attentive to the systemic causes of racism and oppression. Members of the Department with white privilege must recognize our responsibility in alleviating our Black and brown colleagues of the burden of anti-racist work and instruction. We acknowledge that meaningful anti-racist work begins with a critical reflection upon white privilege, and how that privilege manifests itself in our community specifically and in the academy generally.
As historians, it is imperative that we utilize our knowledge of the past in the service of a more just and equitable future. While it is challenging to fully make sense of this moment, we encourage fellow members of the History community to use their expertise, resources, and energy to support meaningful historical change and those affecting it. We unequivocally commit ourselves to the task of using our resources and capabilities as historians to resist racism and oppression in all forms. In consulting a complicated past, we fight for a better future. We call upon members of the Department to join us in these commitments.
Briana V. Vessells
Maria Barreiros Almeida Reis
Brent Howitt Otto
Russell L. Weber
Jonathan Andrew Lear
Leah F. Bórquez
Anayeli Nunez Almengor
Jordan Thomas Mursinna
Mason E. Hinsdale
Peter M. Michelli
Gloria B. Yu
Dear Members of the Cal History Department Community,
As faculty and staff in the Department of History at UC Berkeley, we write to amplify the eloquent and powerful Statement of Support for Black Lives that was recently issued by a courageous and thoughtful group of History graduate students in our department.
We endorse their full-throated outrage towards the recent racist killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. We share their disgust at the malevolent attack on Christian Cooper in Central Park. We echo their indignation at the profound structural inequities laid bare by the disproportionately catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. And we join them in denouncing heavy-handed police crackdowns against peaceful activists and demonstrators in California and throughout the country. We also appreciate the creative call to action that accompanies their appeal as well as the pragmatic fund-raising initiative that they have spearheaded on behalf of organizations leading the anti-racist resistance.
We could not be prouder of the passion and moral seriousness that students from the Cal History Department have showcased in this eloquent Statement and we stand beside them in admiration and solidarity.
Maureen C Miller
Peiting C. Li
Erin Leigh Inama