In Grief and Anger: History Department Statements on George Floyd and Protests
(the faculty statement is at top, proceeded below by our HGSA Executive Board statement)
History Faculty Statement
We, the undersigned full-time history faculty of Loyola’s department, write in grief and anger at the current condition of our country. The recent police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other members of the Black community testify to the enduring sin of racism in American society. Following George Floyd's murder, hundreds of thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to express their rage over police violence against Black people and demonstrate their commitment to change. Like the current COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately affects people of color, these murders have brought renewed attention to the tragic reality of racism and inequality in America. As historians, we strive to expose our students and our readers to the long ancestry, bitter record, and stubborn persistence of these injustices. It is profoundly sad for us to see how little has been learned. The brutal response of some local law enforcement agencies, at times targeting peaceful demonstrators and members of the press, and the willingness of the President of the United States to resort to military force against demonstrators, tear at the fabric of our democracy.
We support the recent efforts of Loyola University Chicago President Jo Ann Rooney and Provost Norberto Gryzwacz to address these issues at our school, in our city, and within society at large. Intellectual and material resources across all disciplines need to be marshalled to transform the structures and beliefs that allow these kinds of atrocities to be repeated time after time. We suggest that this is also a pressing moment for Loyola and for all of us to look inward as well as outward. What is the purpose of higher education in a society dominated by enduring structures of white supremacy? What are the hidden and less conscious manifestations of white supremacy in our curriculum, classrooms, and labs? In what ways are faculty, staff, and students of color marginalized and excluded at Loyola – or never hired or admitted in the first place? In what ways does our campus police force wittingly or unwittingly target people of color? Should Loyola’s cooperation with the Chicago Police Department be ended? We cannot claim to have the answers to these questions, but believe that all of us must ask them.
As the American Historical Association urges, “even as we mourn the death of George Floyd, we must confront this nation’s past; history must inform our actions as we work to create a more just society.”
D. Bradford Hunt
Elizabeth Jones Hemenway
Tanya Stabler Miller
Elizabeth Tandy Shermer
History Graduate Student Association Statement
Monday, June 22, 2020
We, the Board of Loyola’s History Graduate Student Association, condemn the brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police officer and grieve alongside Floyd’s family, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the nation for his death and the deaths of countless others. This pain is not new; it is centuries-old and insidious, weaving itself into the fabric of our society. Many groups have spoken out more eloquently and more poignantly than us, yet as historians we feel a particular call to add our voices to the nationwide – and international – outcry.
We recognize the systemic targeting of the black community that dates back to the very foundation of our country. It is our duty as historians to provide context and interpretation of our past so we can better understand our present and change our future. For decades, some members of our profession have manipulated and misrepresented history in order to reinforce and justify white supremacy. As the next generation of historians, we must dedicate ourselves to recognizing, confronting, and challenging the version of history they left us with and the deeply flawed system that narrative has enabled to thrive.
To jumpstart crucial, long-overdue conversations about race in history, Loyola’s HGSA Board of 2020-21 is starting an antiracism initiative. In the coming days, we will be rolling out resources to spark learning, thought, and conversation about race in America. We do not know where this will end up, but we hope it will grow into a valuable project for starting difficult conversations and guiding our individual and collective paths to confronting racism. If you are interested in helping with this project, feel free to contact Rachel Madden (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Erin Witt (email@example.com).
We also urge you to read the statement by the Loyola Black Graduate Student Alliance (BGSA) on recent events and consider their concrete goals for Loyola to better support Black / African-American grad students, found here. In their words, “we look to the University to truly take on the work needed to acknowledge, address, and dismantle unjust structures evident even within our own classrooms.” The HGSA Board stands with them on their demands for measurable change on campus.
Words on a page and conversation should only be the beginning – change requires a call to action. If you are able, we encourage you to consider donating money, time, or other forms of support to organizations that work to counteract the deep roots and pervasive effects of racial discrimination in our country. The following are a few of the many organizations doing the vital work needed to effect lasting change:
- Brave Space Alliance
- Chicago Freedom School
- Assata’s Daughters
- Campaign Zero
- My Block My Hood My City
In solidarity with our neighbors, we also urge you to consider supporting local black-owned businesses. Below are a few options:
- Semicolon (Chicago, IL)– The only black women owned bookstore in Chicago: (and their digital storefront: https://libro.fm/explore?bookstore=semicolon)
- Black-Owned Businesses in Rogers Park
- A national list of Black-Owned bookstores
This conversation is just beginning. While the process of pulling back the curtain of our assumptions and accepted narratives can be painful, it is necessary if we are to understand how we got here and at what cost. This process is a lifelong commitment, one that demands honesty, humility, and open mindedness from all of us. Feelings of pain, frustration, anger, confusion, and guilt are normal and expected. Listen to those feelings, recognize your privilege in your ability to even have them, acknowledge them, and turn them into action. Only with that understanding can we begin the work of creating a truly equitable and just society.