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Our Statement in Response to the George Floyd Protests

Good Afternoon friends, colleagues and neighbors,

America’s original sin of racism continues to haunt us and to propel us to mourning and righteous indignation. The compound tragedies of health disparities, economic inequality, vigilante violence and police brutality have brought our nation to a place of reckoning. Will America live up to its creed, or will we, under the guise of returning to normalcy, continue to abdicate responsibility for centuries of discrimination and oppression?

The staff and affiliates of JWJI mourn the losses of those who have succumbed to racial violence: victims of vigilante violence, like Ahmaud Arbery; victims of police violence, like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd; and victims of health disparities, like the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately ravaged Black, Brown and Indigenous communities across the United States. We condemn racist violence in all of its personal, structural, and intersectional forms, and we stand with those peaceful protesters who seek to hold our federal, state and local governments accountable to address these problems head on.

We believe in the potential of our scholarship to animate effective, positive change. Our findings can inform activist strategies, help distinguish between effective and ineffective policy proposals, remind us of the mistakes of our foreparents so as not to repeat them, and can help point us in a more just normative direction.

The challenges of the last few weeks remind us that our work is not done. The fact that public officials have publicly denied the existence of structural racism stands as sobering evidence of the challenges that our society faces and of the importance of our work. We remain committed to using our scholarship to expose racism, to educate the ignorant, and to propose practical and just solutions.

We are thankful to do this work alongside many Emory faculty who have dedicated their life’s work to studying inequality in all of its forms. That our faculty includes scholars who study policing, voting rights, criminal justice and health disparities, among other topics, is evidence of the potential we have to address the concerns that have been rightfully raised by the peaceful protesters who want nothing more than equality, equity and justice.

So today, on behalf of JWJI, I write to say that these ongoing crises only underscore the need for us to continue the work we do. We pledge today to continue to support scholarship that asks and answers relevant questions that cut to the quick of America’s racial problems. And we will continue to provide programming—whether digitally or in person—that helps to educate the public and dismantle discriminatory practices that have lethal consequences for people of color in the United States. We look forward to continuing the fight in partnership with you.

In solidarity,
Andra Gillespie
Director, James Weldon Johnson Institute