A Statement from the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College
(Released June 8, 2020)
While for some this moment of uprising that has spread to over 700 cities and towns in the US and in cities in the Global North and South might be a surprise; for us who have been oppressed, murdered, exploited, and disproportionately affected by poverty, Covid 19, infant and maternal mortality, and more, it is not. As James Baldwin penned in 1966, writing on a 1964 Harlem police murder and uprising, it is simply the overflow of the “unimaginably bitter cup” of four hundred years of trauma and pain. To quote Toni Morrison, who was asked the question about “riots” in 1992 after the beating of Rodney King, “What struck me most about those who rioted was how long they waited. The restraint they showed. Not the spontaneity, the restraint. They waited and waited for justice and it didn’t come. No one talks about that.”
At this moment, we at the ACSJL are the Black students, the Black faculty and the Black staff at Kalamazoo College. We are the Black communities of the city and county of Kalamazoo and the region of southwest Michigan. We are the black comrades who visit the Center from within and across national and continental borders. We are those who love us and are prepared to show that love with actions not platitudes. While letters, statements, and videos of support are welcome, they mean little without action.
With this is mind, we demand that:
- Kalamazoo College Faculty calculate Spring 2020 grades based on class work done before the police murder of George Floyd and/or cancel finals and final papers. To do otherwise is to cause additional harm, especially after the burdensome online classes that all have suffered this quarter. While you value what you teach your students, surely you value our Black Lives more. Moreover, what students are learning at this time in our history is experiential learning at its best.
- Kalamazoo College commit to holding those who perpetuate racism on our campus, accountable: in the dorms, in the classrooms, in departments, in units, and in the curriculum. Empower and reward those in departments, and units who work in solidarity with us, and not those who stand in the way of the transformation of our college. Academic funding and cuts at this time of economic hardship should represent not where the college has been, but where it wants to go.
- Kalamazoo College commit to permanent funding (which it has not done) of the College’s Intercultural Center, an intentional space on campus for marginalized students.
- Kalamazoo College mandate that ALL employees of college and all students undergo anti-racist training.
- Kalamazoo College commit to publishing a history of the College that acknowledges its colonial and racist past. Only in this way can we begin to move forward.
- Kalamazoo College create a more robust and accountable anti-bias reporting system and promote it throughout the college.
- The City/County of Kalamazoo investigate the use of tear gas during recent protests, and hold those who ordered it accountable.
- The City/County of Kalamazoo establish an ongoing system of public hearings on police misconduct.
- The City/County of Kalamazoo mandate that all police undergo anti-racist training.
- The City/County of Kalamazoo require that police live in the area in which they work.
We are the global cities, towns and villages that endure and resist anti-blackness and police/vigilante violence daily. Black Lives Matter!
Lisa Brock, Acting Executive Director and Academic Director—Jax Gardner, Associate Executive Director—Julie Maron-Parker, Executive Assistant—Nichole Real, Student Leadership Coordinator—Rhiki Swinton, Center Manager—Tirrea Billings, Communications Manager