Historical & Systemic Racism: Rutgers GSE Call to Action

Last week marked a new disturbing, but familiar, set of events for our nation whose history includes over 400 years of enslavement of Black people, racial discrimination, torture, lynching, and police brutality. Many of us watched in horror the nearly 10-minute video of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a uniformed Minnesota police officer, as Floyd repeatedly said “I can’t breathe.”

Floyd’s death was followed by a viral Facebook posting the next day of Amy Cooper employing her white privilege to call the police on a Black man who was bird watching in Central Park, and asked her to place her dog on a leash per park policy. Just a couple of weeks earlier, the video murder of unarmed Georgia jogger Ahmaud Arbery was released and a former law enforcement officer and his son were finally arrested. In March, Breonna Taylor was killed when Louisville, KY police shot her in her home at least eight times.

Many of us are familiar with the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and countless others in Black communities over many decades at the hands of the very law enforcement professionals that have sworn to protect them. The protests and demonstrations that we are currently witnessing across the United States are a reflection of many years of marching and pleading for those in power to end police brutality against Black men, women, and children that have largely been ignored.

The GSE has a strong commitment to equity and social justice and we stand in solidarity with the Black communities and all allies, as we condemn the unlawful killing of George Floyd and all of the others at the hands of law enforcement in our country. We also call for the prosecution of all involved.

We call upon our leaders at every level in our nation to speak out against this grave injustice, to call for severe consequences for the officers who perpetrated these crimes, and to set a precedent to prevent such crimes against humanity from occurring again.

We also call upon the GSE, our faculty, staff, students, alumni, partners and friends to continue to take a stand in their communities, to bring an end to the systemic racism and dehumanization that Black and other communities of color face every day.

Additionally, we ask that all of us individually commit to engaging in much needed introspection and participate in courageous conversations to better understand our individual roles and commitments in eradicating racism, white privilege, and oppression in our classrooms, schools, universities, agencies, government, communities, and our nation.

The time is NOW, to raise our voice together–We can and we MUST take a stand and make a difference.

Dean Wanda J. Blanchett & GSE Climate, Equity & Culture Work Group
Rutgers University Graduate School of Education.