Statement from the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida
June 12, 2020
The frequent killing of Black people in the United States by police and armed, often white, citizens as occurred with Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and many others is evidence of the plague of systemic racism that ravages this country. While Black U.S. Americans face a disproportionate amount of state violence via a militarized police force and mass incarceration, Black U.S. Americanas also face disproportionate amounts of economic and environmental violence, as well as culturally rooted forms of social inequality that have manifested themselves in elevated rates of unemployment, housing and health disparities. The fact that the coronavirus, and its economic effects have impacted Black communities to an inordinately high degree, illustrates how racism manifests itself in the U.S. In addition to the disturbing political and health crises, there is an unfolding economic crisis that will be born to a greater degree by Black and Latinx U.S. Americans. These realities are a dark legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the failure of the U.S. government to honor its post-emancipation reparation promises to Black U.S. Americans, and Jim Crow perpetuating anti-Black racism.
To assert that this is truly an American phenomenon is an apt statement. While racism leads to the burdensome inequalities described above, it also manifests itself in more subtle indignities Africans and African descendants in the Americas must face as part of their daily lives. In a hemisphere in which colonization and economic growth was made possible by the genocide of Indigenous Peoples, the enslavement of Africans, the exploitation of minorities, and anti-Black racism, Black Lives Matter resonates strongly across national borders, from cities like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Minneapolis, Bogota, Caracas, Quito to countless sites throughout the Americas. In the Americas, the scourge of racism is not limited to the United States. For example, in Brazil more than 33,000 civilians have been killed during the past ten years: 75% of whom were black men. Like George Floyd, João Pedro Matos Pinto and countless others should not have died at the hands of police in Rio de Janeiro.
We have lost too many Black friends, colleagues, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, cousins, and relations to police violence. We have lost too many to the effects of anti-Black racist policies—not only in the US, but also in Latin America—that reproduce socio-economic inequalities resulting in disparities in education, health, and life opportunities from the streets of Minneapolis to those of Complexo de Alemão.
We write to denounce the killing of George Floyd and the deep-rooted, systemic racism that has resulted in the disproportionate killing of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people across the Americas through direct and indirect forms of violence.
We write to offer support to our colleagues, students, and peers who feel unsafe, targeted, or lost in this moment or at any time due to the presence of racism and discrimination in its many guises.
We write to commit to supporting anti-racist pedagogies and working to cultivate spaces for critical reflection, thought, and growth in our classrooms. Within this “we,” there is also recognition that those of us who are not people of color (in the U.S. and/or in Latin America), that we need to commit to learning how to support our colleagues, staff and students of color who regularly have to navigate difficulties that we oftentimes do not even perceive, or experience. Ignoring, or worse denying, the subtler, but equally harmful manifestations of racism, makes one an accomplice to its unacceptable perpetuation. We commit to proactively assess our own complicity with systematic racism in order to confront and fight it through different educational and political means. The tragic murder of George Floyd has awakened many of us to the realities of being Black in the Americas.
We write to acknowledge that despite our personal commitments to justice and racial equity, we have more work to do to ensure anti-racist education and equal opportunities for the students we serve and within our workplace relationships and environment.
We write to express solidarity with, and to grieve with, those who strive to advance racial, social and environmental justice across the United States, Latin America, and beyond. We strongly admire your commitment and sacrifice to root out this societal cancer.
The Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida denounces the persistence of anti-Black racism. We stand in support of struggles for racial justice like Black Lives Matter, o Coalizão Negra Por Direitos, and el Proceso de Comunidades Negras. Once more, we share and lament the pain of our colleagues, students, friends, and family. As enshrined in the U.S. constitution, peaceful protest is the foundation of a healthy democracy. The voices of those oppressed by police violence and subject to structural violence of anti-Black racist policies must be heard. Long overdue, the time has come to change policing practices in the United States, to demand anti-racist policy reform, and to reject racism and White Supremacy in all forms.
We all must do this to honor the life of George Floyd, a vida de João Pedro Matos Pinto, and countless others, living today or lost to the passage of time.
We do this so that Black Lives Matter will no longer represent an aspiration, but a reality.