The Faculty of the Grinnell College Department of Sociology support the Black Lives Matter Movement and all those who stand against systemic racism. We condemn racism in all its forms. As sociologists, we know that the status quo of racial inequality is unacceptable. We know that structural racism is the result of a baseless set of attitudes toward the social construct we call “race.” While race is not real scientifically, it has material and ideological foundations and it is real in its effects. These effects include differential access, perceptions of worth, extension of empathy, access to appropriate medical care, material wealth, employment opportunities, representational inequalities, attitudes toward power and authority and the weight of discrimination and violence on the daily lives of non-white people in the U.S., particularly Black and Indigenous people. We know that the notion of “race” has been a filter to channel resources to some groups and deny others. Racial inequality is set up and solidified in the practices of banks, educational systems, mass incarceration, housing discrimination, policing, and many other institutions. Since their origins in the Southern slave patrols, police forces have been used in the service of capitalism and white supremacy. Over-policing and over-incarceration of Black and Brown people has been one of the central pillars of white supremacy and continues to shape who is policed and incidences of brutality and police violence. According to the advocacy group Mapping Police Violence, Black people were 24% of those killed by the police in 2019 although they are only 13% of the population. Latinx people died at the hands of police at 1.5 times the rate of Whites. In Iowa, Blacks make up about 4% of Iowa’s 3.2 million residents. But they accounted for 24% of those who had force used against them by officers with the Iowa Department of Public Safety, which includes the Iowa State Patrol and Division of Criminal Investigation. According to the Lakota People’s Law Project and the CDC, the mortality rate for Native Americans due to “legal intervention” is 12% higher than for African Americans.
White supremacy distorts relationships between people, threatening the health of the nation and the future of democracy. This trauma takes many forms: outright violence, diminishment, deprivation and discrimination toward one’s person and efforts, erasure, promises broken, distortions of fact to protect white comfort and advantage, and exhaustion. We will use the courses taught in Sociology as spaces to know how these systems work, to recognize and learn to use our collective agency and power, and to develop ourselves and our tools to redress and extinguish systematic racism in interactions and in institutions, including this one. We acknowledge that the discipline of sociology has too often marginalized Black theorists, despite the pivotal role that W. E. B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, Anna Julia Cooper and generations of subsequent scholars have played in the development and advancement of our field. Following in the footsteps of Black Feminist, queer, critical race, and other critical scholars, we commit to putting theory into practice, to actively working for justice, and to including marginalized voices in our work.
Finally, BLACK LIVES MATTER. There is no room in any life for racism and sociology is a tool that can help us recover from the false beliefs that scientific racism has planted into so many aspects of social life. The stakes of sociology today are high. We do not take the work ahead lightly, but we do celebrate the opportunity to link arms with you and target white supremacy and its attendant systems as an object of analysis, and as a system that can be understood and dismantled. We look forward to this common work.
In solidarity, The Sociology Department