Dismantling Our Oppressive, Racist, Violent Systems
Published June 06, 2020
It has been one week since George Floyd was murdered under the knee of a Minneapolis Police Officer in Minnesota; one week since Tony McDade was gunned down by law enforcement in Tallahassee, Florida; 12 weeks since Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by a police officer in her own home in Louisville, Kentucky. There are countless more Black men, women, and gender-nonconforming individuals who are murdered by police each year and do not make national news. Let us be clear - this is not new. 400 years of slavery, oppression, and violence have traumatized and murdered Black people in the United States of America. Since the beginning of our country, our political and social systems were built to promote the legacy of slavery by causing, and perpetuating, instability of Black communities, massive social, health and economic inequities, and violence against Black bodies. The violence we witness today is a direct consequence of the systems of racism and oppression designed by, and continually reinforced by, White people. Our history has brought us to this moment.
As the leadership of the Violence Prevention Institute (VPI), and violence prevention researchers at a majority-White university, we acknowledge our role in the long history of racism in academia, including the exclusion, silencing, and exploitation of Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous communities, and the larger systems that promote racism and violence in this country. Most of us are White women. We recognize the absolute need for us, along with all White people in this country, to continuously educate ourselves and be leaders in dismantling White supremacy. White supremacy includes lack of knowledge and lack of action. We must learn, and relearn, how to fight in solidarity with Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous communities for racial equity and justice. We must take leadership roles in actively dismantling our oppressive and violent systems, while we also partner with others to rebuild equitable ones. We commit, as leaders in violence prevention and as individuals of privilege, to do the work ourselves.
The VPI Leadership Team is developing action steps to promote a no tolerance stance on racism of any kind in any aspect of our work. We pledge to pursue an anti-racist agenda to create research and practice that is anti-racist, to continually advocate for anti-racist systems at all levels, and to contribute to the training of the next generations of anti-racist leaders in the field of violence prevention. Our actions steps include:
- Educating ourselves, including reading and listening to the work of Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous activists, academics, scholars, students, and practitioners.
- Attending ongoing anti-racism trainings to further address how our structure and team may unintentionally contribute to racist and oppressive systems of violence.
- Making space to engage in difficult conversations amongst ourselves, with other faculty, staff, and students across the University, and with University leadership.
- Developing a structure for internal accountability within our Institute, including directly examining and promoting more diversity and inclusivity within our leadership team, and creating mechanisms for external accountability for our actions and work.
- Actively developing, implementing, and evaluating a long-term plan of action for direct engagement with community organizations and groups to ensure equitable partnerships in our violence prevention research and practice efforts.
- Engaging with local, state, and federal government officials and policymakers to advocate for change in systems of oppression and to create a channel for accountability for such entities.
As we build our action plan and create an infrastructure for all faculty, students and staff working in violence prevention at Tulane to learn and engage in anti-racist work, we pledge transparency about both our progress and our challenges.
Black Lives Matter. We will continue to fight, and we we will continue to hold each other accountable in that fight.
The VPI Leadership Team
Stacy Drury, MD, PhD - Executive Director
Julia M. Fleckman, PhD, MPH - Associate Director
Samantha Francois, PhD - Executive Director
Katherine Schulze, MPH - Program Manager
Cathy A. Taylor, PhD, MPH, MSW - Outgoing Senior Director
Katherine P. Theall, PhD, MPH - Incoming Senior Director