The Sociology programme team at Canterbury Christ Church University condemn the brutal, racist murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on the 25th May, 2020, and the violent response from government authorities in the US and UK.
We stand in solidarity with the groups, individuals, and communities who have for decades endured not only direct, explicit racism, but multiple levels of racial oppression across gender, class and religion. We stand in solidarity with all members of our learning community – students and staff alike – whose lives have been impacted by racism. We know that these anti-black racisms as they manifest in brutal policing practices are connected to deep histories of colonial and imperial power, and are part of a wider picture of racism and racial inequalities. Unequal treatment and access to housing, health care, education, citizenship, policing, and political representation has led to severe socio-economic, social and psychological damage that cannot be repaired in one sitting, one march, nor one statement. George Floyd’s death is a catalyst for change. But it is also only one episode in a long and ignoble history of countless incidents of institutionally enabled oppression, maltreatment, violence and murder.
As such, condemnation of George Floyd’s killing is not sufficient on its own. Condemning a murder is NOT the same as condemning the cause of the murder, the bodies that stand on either side of the murder, and the entire system that allowed and even encouraged the murder to take place. We condemn not only the act, but the systematic, inter-related web of destructive, social, political and economic systems that kill, maim and harm countless racialized populations in the US, UK, and around the world. We affirm that black lives matter, and stand in solidarity with all those who campaign against racism in the UK and across the world.
As Sociologists, we must ask serious questions about how we can stand in alliance with the change mechanisms that may facilitate a social justice framed world. We have a disciplinary duty and responsibility to engage in teaching that breaks the boundaries of race, class and gender, and to pro-actively work to disrupt the kinds of thinking that ultimately lead to acts of oppression. Sociology has not always been successful in this objective.
Even as the world reels from a global, deadly pandemic, a highly racialized picture of inequalities has emerged, as more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people have died from COVID-19, and suffer disproportionate levels of infection. And this is true around the world. We cannot isolate one racist violent act from all the other inter-related complexities of this unequal world. The institutional racism that runs through US policing, also runs deep within the British policing system, supported by culturally racist discrimination and economic and political marginalisation. These systemic problems pervade every aspect of society – the society that Sociology promised to study. And yet in so many cases, and for so long, it has failed to do so.
In every sociology curriculum, at all levels throughout the UK education system, students learn about a variety of intersecting social, cultural and economic inequalities, all underwritten by social theories seeking to explain the complexity of society. But we must question, when there is so much racism in the world, across nation states and within, affecting millions of people, whether Sociology has risen to this challenge? We need to ask serious questions and create a space for honesty and humility. So how can Sociology, as a discipline and an institution, reflect the very society it is deeply embedded within? First, it is imperative that we have a frank reckoning of Sociology’s shortcomings and its role in perpetuating division, and second, that we change the face of Sociology. For it is only when we are able to honestly engage with our role in a society riven with these racial inequalities, that we can begin to become allies to the on-going project of liberation. We must listen, we must hear, we must act.
Together, we will move beyond condemnation of racism and racial inequalities, and seek to use the criticality of a changing, adaptational sociology to mobilise an understanding that contributes to building a better world for every individual, group and community. We will seek to be allies and support the resistance against racism in ways that mobilise our skills, but which do not unintentionally reproduce the very problems we are trying to address. This will mean making mistakes, and learning from each other, with humility, and compassion. This is the sociology that we strive to practise.
The Sociology Team