Statement on Police Brutality and Systemic Racism – June 2020
Dear CLACS Community,
In light of recent events surrounding the deaths of black people in the United States, we at CLACS write in strong support of the ideals that underpin our Center’s mission. The horrific killing of George Floyd is part of the systemic racial violence that is part of this country’s history. CLACS has always promoted knowledge and understanding of the multiple cultures and heritages of the Americas and of the often violent regimes that have shaped them.
As scholars of Latin America and the Caribbean, we know all too well the legacies of colonialism and slavery and the histories of brutal oppression enacted on indigenous peoples and peoples of African descent in the Americas, as well as the grim records documenting state suppression of peaceful protest, into the present day. It is thus with more than heavy hearts that we have witnessed the events of the past days and months, events in which people of color have been harassed and murdered and in which individuals exerting their rights to protest systemic racism throughout the United States have faced efforts to silence their voices through police intimidation and palpable threats of violence by others. Sadly, these events are not new. We think of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Abner Louisma, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Travyon Martin and countless others.
But this is not just a matter of scholarly study; it is deeply personal. At CLACS, we’ve worked hard to build a diverse staff, predominantly of Latinx and African descent, that can connect to the communities that we serve. Needless to say, many in our student and faculty communities are also of African, Caribbean, indigenous, and/or Latin American heritage. Many of us do not feel safe in the current climate; many are anxious, fearful, and angry. At a time when the health and safety of our communities is paramount, many brown and black people are afraid to wear masks during this pandemic for fear that they may be harassed or even killed. As events of the last several years tell us, black males are especially at risk of being racially profiled and murdered.
We now stand with all people of color in the United States as they face police violence, the suppression of peaceful political protest, and everyday fear for their safety. We are also dismayed at recent reports of unrest in cities across the nation that has turned violent. In the spirit of asserting our commitment toward building a safe and healthy community for all, and of encouraging true, democratic, open discussion, we invite you to comment on the events around us and to offer your own visions for a path forward. We hope the rest of the KU community can join us in expressing our fears and frustrations. We insist that we must strive to make campus safer. We must strive to make Lawrence safer. We must strive to make all spaces safer. Please raise your voices.
Follow or participating in the conversation on Twitter, Tweets by @KUCLACS.
“The University of Kansas is committed to providing equal opportunity for all students. For the past five years, DACA has enabled these young people to pursue education and employment. I believe they represent what is best about America, and it is unfair to penalize them for circumstances outside their control.” – Dr. Douglas A. Girod, Chancellor
On Tuesday, September 5, 2017 President Trump formally announced the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, also known as DACA. Our students, including DACA and DREAMer students, are an integral part of the CLACS (Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies) community, and we are committed to ensure that this university remains a place of support and care for all people regardless of documentation, race, religion, place of origin, nationality, sexual orientation, physical ability, or political leaning. Like all of KU, CLACS thrives on the open exchange of students, scholars, and ideas, and our collective mission requires that we promote the success of every KU student. Please read the message of our Chancellor.
We encourage you to contact the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) with questions or concerns. OMA is the designated space for DACA and DREAMer students and students from mixed status families. You can visit http://undocumented.ku.edu/ for information regarding professional guidance, academic support, legal services, counseling and psychological services, and other forms of individualized support. You can also visit the KU Latinx Studies Initiative website, which will provide updated and useful information.
The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies community grieves the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. We are committed to ensure that this university remains a place of support and care for all people regardless of race, religion, place of origin, nationality, sexual orientation, physical ability, or political leaning. Please read the message of our Chancellor.
Over the past several weeks, a series of events have occurred both locally and nationally that should rightfully discomfort all of us. As the faculty, staff and students of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), we unequivocally support the efforts of students and the university to combat discrimination and intolerance on this campus and raise awareness for issues that deserve our attention and action. Therefore, we share in the obligation charged to us by our dean, Carl Lejuez, to build and maintain a learning and workplace environment where people are safe, recognized and valued.
We affirm that the lives of marginalized individuals and communities matter, especially in regards to the growth and prosperity of this university. We, like other KU academic units, believe that all KU students, faculty and staff deserve equal opportunity to learn, work, walk, and live in a safe and supportive space representative of the values of KU. When our university is not safe, or when diversity and inclusivity are afterthoughts, our mission falters. Therefore, we encourage everyone not to be silent and to speak out against injustice on this campus and beyond
With a strong history of working to bring attention to voices and stories that so often fade from immediacy or national consciousness, CLACS remains steadfast in our commitment to uphold the values of fairness, justice and inclusiveness. We contend that mutual understanding and respect are necessary to inspire effective dialogue when dealing with issues of inclusivity, diversity, safety and tolerance.
We recognize that using our voice to acknowledge the issues that afflict marginalized students at KU is an essential responsibility, but we should always do more. In addition to this letter, we are encouraging all core and affiliate faculty and staff to become Safe Zone graduates as well as attend a specialized training on issues of inclusivity and social justice. By taking advantage of the exceptional resources at KU, we intend to make a positive impact on the strength and safety of the university. Furthermore, we will use this knowledge to continue to examine our own actions, offerings, and operations as we work to make our Center, and by extension KU, the place of learning, community and culture we deserve.
In closing, we are consistently proud of students who make their voices known and their bodies visible on campus. We are encouraged by your spirit and tenacity, and your efforts hold us accountable for what we believe is imperative. We stand with you––enough is enough.
The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Statement from the Institute of Haitian Studies on Hurricane Matthew
Just 6 years after the January 12, 2010 deadly earthquake from which Haiti is still recuperating, a category 4 hurricane hit the southwestern region killing close to 1000 people (current estimates as of 10/10/2016) and destroying over 80% of towns like Les Cayes, and Jérémie and surrounding villages. Many people want to reach out and have asked about how best to help.
Here are a three practical tips:
- Educate yourself. Learn about Haiti and the root causes of these types of natural disasters. Beware of “The Danger of a Single story” as Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds us because they only give partial truths and lead to critical misunderstanding. She states: “The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.” The majority of media outlets reporting on Hurricane Matthew in Haiti continuously repeat the same version of the single story of Haiti as “the poorest country of the Western hemisphere” where people cut trees. The stories do not explain that the deforestation is due to the fact that people cut trees to make charcoal so they can cook. While the deforestation in Haiti has been the object of ongoing debates for decades, too often ecologists and other scholars are not making the link between colonialism, poverty, deforestation and capitalism. People have to be educated out of poverty and be given opportunities to work to become independent. Only then can we all plant trees.
- Avoid voluntourism. On August 13, 2016, The New York Times published the story “To Get to Harvard, go to Haiti” in which a 17 year old high school student laments the fact that many of his friends are posting pictures on Instagram and Snapchat with some brown child that they helped during the summer in Haiti as part of their college application essay so that they can have a story detailing their “transformation” and voluntourism effort. This story is an example of disaster tourism. In Killing with Kindness: Haiti, International Aid, and NGOs, scholar anthropologist Matt Schuller describes what he refers to as “trickle down imperialism” to describe the role that power plays within the aid system using examples from post-earthquake aid given to Haiti. If you choose to offer on-site aid, do so responsibly. Research the organization with which you will work, and be sure that their efforts are put toward sustainable solutions.
- Give responsibly. It’s not enough to just click and send a donation. Do your research and find out where your money is going. Are you supporting an organization that is working at the grassroots levels with Haitians to have direct impact on the population or are you just giving to an organization’s overhead? Realize that you can give at any time and in different ways. Find out the way that makes sense for you to give. Many people are giving now but in a few weeks or months they will have forgotten about Haiti. Perhaps you should wait to give later or give on an ongoing basis.
While we do not endorse any particular organizations, we recommend that you do research before you give to any particular organization to be sure they are aligned with your own values. Here are some suggestions of organizations where you may want to start to do research: