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.
Professor and Dean
Suggested reading and viewingWelcome 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Text: Federation statement on anti-Black racism
By Wesley Crichlow, Board Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
Video: Trevor Noah On George Floyd, Amy Cooper & Racism In Society
The Daily Show, June 1, 2020
Audio: June 12, 2020 panel discussion on The Current
Hosted by CBC’s Matt Galloway with guests Professor David Olusoga and Professor Afua Cooper
Book: Locating Home
Edited by George Elliott Clarke
Blurb: In this unique literary collection, George Elliott Clarke—the pioneering scholar of African-Canadian literature—anthologizes the field’s first collections of poetry and the first novel. Clarke’s powerful introduction illuminates the historical, cultural, and political significance of these ground-breaking works for contemporary readers of Black Canadian authors.
About Clarke: The 4th Poet Laureate of Toronto (2012-15) and 7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate (2016-17), George Elliott Clarke is a revered artist in song, drama, fiction, screenplay, essays, and poetry. Now teaching African-Canadian literature at the University of Toronto, Clarke has taught at Duke, McGill, the University of British Columbia, and Harvard. He holds eight honorary doctorates, plus appointments to the Order of Nova Scotia and the Order of Canada. His recognitions include the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellows Prize, the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry, the National Magazine Gold Award for Poetry, the Premiul Poesis (Romania), the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction, the Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry (US), and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award. Clarke’s work is the subject of Africadian Atlantic: Essays on George Elliott Clarke (2012), edited by Joseph Pivato.
Book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
By Michelle Alexander
Short Form Notes (by Michelle Alexander)
Text: “America, this is your chance: we must get it right this time or risk losing our democracy forever,” (op-ed) The New York Times, June 8, 2020 (op-ed).
By Michelle Alexander
Podcast: “The 1619 Project”
The New York Times, special series
Blurb: "The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th Anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very centre of our national narrative.”
Website: “Why We Published the 1619 Project”
New York Times Magazine, Dec. 20, 2019
By Jake Silverstein
Book: The Mis-Education of the Negro
By Carter G. Woodson
Book: The Wretched of the Earth
By Frantz Fanon
Book: Black Skin/White Masks
By Frantz Fanon
Documentary Film: I Am Not Your Negro
Directed by Raoul Peck
Video: "Confronting Anti-Black Racism in London"
Part of the City Symposium event series (July 7, 2020)
Documentary Film: 13th
Directed by Ava DuVernay
Book: In the Wake: On Blackness and Being
By Christina Sharpe
Book: The Skin We’re In (black on campus)
By Desmond Cole
Book: They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life and Growing Up
By Eternity Martis (Martis is an alum of Western)
Text: “The Problem with Anti-Racist Movie Lists”
The New York Times, July 17, 2020
By Raquel Gates
Book: Some missing pages: the Black community in the history of Québec and Canada : primary source materials / in partnership, Provincial Association of Social Studies Teachers, Quebec Board of Black Educators, Ministère de l'éducation
By Provincial Association of Social Studies Teachers (Quebec)
Quebec Board of Black Educators.
Book: The Marrow Thieves
By Cherie Dimaline
Text: "We Are the Cops"
The London Free Press, October 3, 2019
By Randy Richmond
Audio: Smoke Signals
Radio program hosted by Mary Lou and Dan Smoke
94.9 Radio Western
Text: Indigenizing the Academy
CAUT Policy Statement
Text: Bargaining for Indigenization of the Academy
CAUT Bargaining Advisory
Book: The Road to Now: A History of Blacks in Montreal
By Dorothy Williams
Text: "Heard of code-switching? Here's why these Western students do it"
CBCNews.ca, July 31, 2020
By Rebecca Zandbergen
Website: Being Black in Canada
CBCNews.ca digital collection