Department of Africana Studies
Reflecting on the murder of George Floyd, particularly the final tragic moments as he pleaded for his life and said “I can’t breathe” while a white police officer pinned his knee against his neck, is a stark reminder of the racial violence that black Americans have suffered as a result of systemic institutionalized racism. Far too many black Americans have lost their lives due to heinous acts of white supremacists, vigilantes, and the police. Americans who witnessed firsthand Floyd’s horrific death, or watched the video that went viral on several social media outlets, are not only saying “no more,” we are actually shouting – enough is enough!
In response to the death of Floyd, as well as Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Freddy Gray, Sandra Bland, and countless other victims, protest demonstrations have ripped across the United States. These demonstrations, marches, and rallies, some organized, others spontaneous, waged largely by a multiethnic, multiracial, multigender groups of demonstrators, are in part a response to anti-black policing characterized by or coupled with excessive force used by the police when encountering people of color. Nor has our modern-day technology prevented or discouraged these disgusting and horrendous acts. Once again in the midst of civil protests, where heightened emotions from sadness to anger to apathy to hope, we have witnessed another tragic death – the murder of Rayshard Brooks at the hands of Atlanta police officers. Once again, a wound that had the potential to heal has burst wide open due to Brooks’ death. Once again, as a nation already seeking ways to heal, we must confront yet another act of senseless violence by the police perpetrated on an unarmed African American male as the city of Atlanta, and the nation bears witness to another tragic death that could have been prevented had the police followed a different protocol. Most recently, we are forced to confront even more tragic acts by the police as a result of excessive force used against Jacob Blake, who lie in a hospital bed paralyzed, and Daniel Prude, whose death was ruled as a homicide due to asphyxia.
In 2013, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, and Opal Tometi in response to a miscarriage of justice following the death of Trayvon Martin. Understanding that black Americans have disproportionately and historically suffered racial violence at the hands of white supremacists, vigilantes, and the police, the mission of BLM “is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” Recent incidents around police brutality have reignited the fervor of this movement and the importance of its slogan. A call to action, a demand for justice, a denouncement of systemic racism—these voices have become a trademark, a clarion call of these protests. The slogan underscores the fact that, all too often, Black Lives Matter has not been a reality for black Americans in this country.
The Department of Africana Studies, born out of the racial protest demonstrations of the 1960s, stands united in solidarity with those who strive for an inclusive America, a place where neither race, class, gender, nor sexual orientation determinations your plight in this country. It is paramount that we stand together to confront publicly institutional racism and other forms of inequities, not only with the police but also in every aspect of our lives. We must remain committed to being the change we would like to see in this world, to ending hate and the egregious abuse of human rights in this country. Inspired by Cleveland State University’s (CSU) initiatives to address structural inequities, the Department of Africana Studies encourages all members of the CSU campus community to join us in eradicating systemic racism. While we seek measures to end the Covid-19 pandemic, which has greatly impacted all of our lives, disproportionately people of color, let us seek this same diligence in our quest for social justice and stand united with all those who wish, in their own ways, to be instruments of change.
Thomas L. Bynum, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Africana Studies
Associate Professor of History