FIMS Statement on Police Violence and Racism

June 8, 2020

A Statement from the Faculty of Information & Media Studies

Downtown London was filled with chants of Black Lives Matter this Saturday, June 6, as marchers gathered in the city by the thousands to protest against anti-black racism and racist police violence. Were it not for COVID19, Western would also have been hosting the Congress of the Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences this weekend, welcoming scholars, activists and community members to our beautiful campus. Over 80 academic fields would have been represented in research discussions, exhibits, and performances. Congress’ theme this year was Bridging Divides: Confronting Colonialism and Anti-Black Racism, a revision of the original theme of decolonization, following an anti-Black racist incident at the 2019 meetings in Vancouver. Instead of addressing this urgent issue at the conference, it was confronted on the streets by protesters with signs, chants, and raised voices.

In London, marchers chanted through COVID19 face masks: Black Lives Matter. They joined millions of people in North America and around the world who, triggered by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25, are pushing back against anti-black racism, especially enacted by urban police departments throughout the United States, Canada, and other Western democracies. Police officers are responsible for the deaths of Black men and women under arrest or recently jailed (Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, George Floyd), protesting unarmed (Michael Brown) or peacefully acknowledging the legal possession of a weapon (Philando Castile), sleeping (Breonna Taylor), jogging (Ahmaud Arbery), and in some cases no more than 11 years old (Tamir Rice). To name just a few. Seventeen-year old Trayvon Martin was killed by a self-appointed neighbourhood watch captain who was later acquitted.

The deaths of these black men, women and children at the hands of police do not reflect “bad apples” in otherwise peaceful forces but the outcomes of historically linked racist hierarchy and the abuse of police power.

At FIMS we acknowledge our scholarly accountability to social justice, and stand with protestors, activists, marchers, and all young people seeking a new world free from racism and violence. We recognize that racist police violence is not something that happens only in the US. Canada is reckoning with its own history of police violence against black and Indigenous people. A CBC News investigation found that from 2000-2017, black people made up 36.5% of fatalities involving Toronto police, despite accounting for just 8.3% of the city’s population. We must consider the May 27 death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29 year-old Afro-Indigenous woman who fell from her 24th floor balcony in Toronto in the company of police during a mental health call, in light of those numbers. So must we consider the death of Chantel Moore—a 26-year-old Tla-o-qui-aht woman from British Columbia—shot by a police officer in New Brunswick on June 5 during a “wellness check.”

In Canada, Ontario and London, we are not free of the repeated police violence we witness elsewhere. London Free Press investigative journalist Randy Richmond, who has taught and lectured at FIMS, published an award-winning report in Fall 2019 titled “We Are the Cops” (https://lfpress.com/tag/we-are-the-cops/). It is a work of painstaking investigation of an officer’s violence against a prone (white) woman in custody in a London precinct, the Police Services coverup and barriers in the court system that followed. The officer responsible is still on the job. This was not an isolated incident of abuse at the hands of the police. Richmond points us to problems with the system and with the culture of policing.

At FIMS, we teach undergraduate students to explore sources and think critically about news and other official frameworks for understanding the world, including the world of policing, police violence, and institutional racism. We know that media and information count as we respond to injustice. (“How Many Deaths Weren’t Filmed?” asked marchers’ picket signs on Saturday.) We stand with Black people, with Indigenous people, and with people of all ages and races who protest racist violence. We will keep social justice and the real possibility for social change at the core of our curriculum.

Black Lives Matter.

Lisa Henderson
Professor and Dean

Suggested Reading and Viewing

Welcome readers, listeners, and viewers. Some of the material below takes an anti-racist perspective and implicitly addresses white or settler readers and viewers. Others are less about opposing racism and colonization than seeing Black and Indigenous life. Suggestions have come from members of the FIMS community and we welcome additions. Please send your suggestions to Dean Lisa Henderson, Faculty of Information & Media Studies: lhende44@uwo.ca

Articles

"America, this is your chance: we must get it right this time or risk losing our democracy forever"
The New York Times, June 8, 2020
By Michelle Alexander

"Why We Published the 1619 Project"
The New York Times, Dec. 20, 2019
By Jake Silverstein

"The Problem with Anti-Racist Movie Lists"
The New York Times, July 17, 2020
By Raquel Gates

"We Are the Cops"
The London Free Press, Oct. 3, 2019
By Randy Richmond

"Heard of code-switching? Here's why these Western students do it"
CBC News, July 31, 2020
By Rebecca Zandbergen

"Documentary Resistance: The Stories of 'We Tell' as Collective Political Agency"
Film Quarterly, June 26, 2020
By Angela Aguayo

"Slouching toward equity"
The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 10, 2020
By Maximillian Alvarez

"Podcasts' slow journalism is where reporting meets storytelling"
J-Source.ca, Sept. 25, 2020
By Hannah Sung (FIMS Asper Fellow)

"Whiteness and Communication"
Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, June 2020
Edited by Thomas K. Nakayama

"The Power of Social Justice Movements: Black Lives Matter takes the baton from the Civil Rights Movement"
Scientific American, Feb. 3, 2021
By Aldon Morris

"Inquirer has overwhelmingly white newsroom and its coverage underrepresents people of colour, report says"
The Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 12, 2021
By Anna Orso and Jesenia De Moya Correa

"Objectivity Is a Privilege Afforded to White Journalists"
The Walrus, Sept. 14, 2020
By Pacinthe Mattar

"New report details 'disturbing rise' in anti-Asian hate crimes in Canada"
CTV News, March 23, 2021
By Jeremiah Rodriguez

"Denying Black musicians their royalties has a history emerging out of slavery"
The Conversation Canada, May 12, 2021
By Matt Stahl

"'White audiences who will pay' is still metro newspapers' survival strategy"
Nieman Lab, July 12, 2021
By Nikki Usher

Books

Locating Home
Edited by George Elliott Clarke

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colourblindness
By Michelle Alexander

The Mis-Education of the Negro
By Carter G. Woodson

The Wretched of the Earth
By Frantz Fanon

Black Skin, White Masks
By Frantz Fanon

In the Wake: On Blackness and Being
By Christina Sharpe

The Skin We’re In
By Desmond Cole

They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life and Growing Up
By Eternity Martis (Martis is an alum of Western)

The Marrow Thieves
By Cherie Dimaline

The Road to Now: A History of Blacks in Montreal
By Dorothy Williams

Bearing Witness While Black
By Allissa V. Richardson

Films, Documentaries & TV Shows

I Am Not Your Negro
Directed by Raoul Peck

13th
Directed by Ava DuVernay

Podcasts & Radio

"The Current," June 12, 2020 panel discussion
Hosted by CBC’s Matt Galloway with guests Professor David Olusoga and Professor Afua Cooper

"The 1619 Project"
Produced by The New York Times

"Smoke Signals"
Produced by 94.9 Radio Western, hosted by Mary Lou and Dan Smoke

"Warriors in the Garden"
Produced by This American Life
Audience discretion advised: includes recorded sequences of police officers threatening a NYC activist at his apartment.

Statements

Federation statement on anti-Black racism
By Wesley Crichlow
Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Indigenizing the Academy
CAUT Policy Statement

Bargaining for Indigenization of the Academy
CAUT Bargaining Advisory

Nikole Hannah-Jones' Statement on Declining Tenure Offer at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
By Nikole Hannah-Jones
NAACP Legal Defence Fund

Videos

"Trevor Noah On George Floyd, Amy Cooper & Racism In Society"
The Daily Show, June 1, 2020

"Confronting Anti-Black Racism in London"
Part of the City Symposium event series, July 7, 2020

"Black Media-Makers and the Fierce Urgency of Now"
Sponsored by the Center for Media at Risk and the Media, Inequality & Change, July 7, 2021

"Black on campus: Students, staff and faculty say universities are failing them"
Produced by The Fifth Estate on CBC, Feb. 26, 2021

"Kevin B. Lee’s New Video Essay Explores Mourning with Minari"
Produced by Kevin B. Lee, April 14, 2021

Websites

"Being Black in Canada"
CBC News digital collection

"12 Black Scholars on the Black Lives Matter Movement and Canada"
ActiveHistory.ca