As members of the Department of Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies (SWAGS), we support the organizers and participants of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. We join their call to widen the dialogue within and beyond the college, including through the links they have made to the national #BlackLivesMatter networks. We are better for their engagement and compassion.
We thank the courageous students, faculty, and staff who have testified to the impact of police brutality and unequal justice on their own lives, and therefore on all of us.
Members of the Psychology Department want to express our strong support for those who organized the Black Lives Matter programming, and encourage them to continue the important educational work they are doing on campus. The organizers gave our community an opportunity to deepen our learning about issues of police brutality and racial inequality. The work of this group was met by disrespect and hostility from those who tore down, defaced, or covered over the Black Lives Matter posters anonymously in the cover of night.
The Amherst College American Studies Department has long been committed to the critical study of American society from diverse perspectives, work that defines race from its most theoretical postulations to its hard, concrete material meanings—including a legacy of violence that continues to imperil lives. Many in our community are unaware of what it is like to hear car door locks click as you pass by, to be scrutinized with suspicion when you enter a store, to be pulled over on the roadway for some inexplicable reason, and to fear with just cause those charged with protecting your safety.
Along with our colleagues in Black Studies, we in the Anthropology and Sociology Department wish to express our strong support for #BlackLivesMatter. The thoughtfulness, courage, and shared commitment to issues of racial justice that resulted in the events of Black Lives Matter Awareness Week should be applauded, not disparaged, and the aspiration of the campaign’s organizers to enhance self-reflection among the campus community regarding racism and police violence should be embraced as a model of what enlightened citizenship can look like here.
We in the Department of Black Studies were extremely dismayed to learn that posters reading #BlackLivesMatter were torn down or postered over this past weekend. The #BlackLivesMatter campaign is of particular and urgent concern for our fellow humans who suffer disproportionately from police violence, but it should be of concern to any and all who care about racial justice and basic human decency. The disrespect toward this campaign expressed in the tearing down, defacing, or covering of posters sends a terrible message to our community.
As my first year at Amherst was coming to its end, I began to reflect on my first-year experience in the Amherst community. More specifically, I thought about how much Amherst’s queer community had influenced me to grow and accept my identity. As I packed my things, preparing to go back “home,” to a place where my identity was neither accepted nor embraced, I realized how lucky I was, and am, to be at Amherst. It is here where I am given a safe environment to explore new realms of my queer identity.
When I was around 15 or 16 years old, I witnessed an extrajudicial killing by Jamaican policemen outside my mother’s workplace. A black man was running from the police and attempted to scale the wall leading to the entrance of the premises. The authorities quickly pursued the man, and instead of attempting to arrest the individual, the police fired a couple of shots at him. I remember the scene and how quickly this man’s death came. I remember no hostility from this man as he ran fleeing for his life.