The associated faculty and staff at the Center for Science and Society (who include researchers and scholars in the humanities, natural and social sciences, law, journalism, and public health) are deeply saddened and outraged by the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, and many others. We condemn the violence against Black and Latinx communities and stand in solidarity with all victims of police abuse, their families, and those valiantly protesting across the country.
We also recognize that, as many of the groups and organizations involved in the protests have cogently argued, the continuing problem of abuse, disrespect, humiliation, and killing of this country’s Black people is fundamentally linked with its histories -- both recent and long term -- of systemic and structural racism. This is not at all to exculpate individual officers or private citizens as somehow not accountable for their part in what we believe to be patently criminal acts. Rather it is to assert that a response that regards these individuals as mere “bad apples” or “rogue officers” is wrongheaded and even disingenuous, especially in light of the nation’s long history of not even adjudicating such killings.
Further, while the national conversation at this moment centers on police reform, we encourage all of our members and supporters to regard this problem as inseparable from inequities in labor, longstanding public health disparities (now particularly exposed by COVID-19), housing, education, and, of course, mass incarceration. Much the same way that Minneapolis’s (and, unfortunately, many other cities’) experiments with weak policing reforms have proved inadequate, we propose that even a deep interrogation of policing in this country will be inadequate to redress inequities which have only grown over the past generation or more. We in this country should not settle for “better policing” while so many other systems remain broken. Rather, we humbly add our voice to those of this nation’s leading justice organizations to argue that we all must have the heart and determination to pursue this moment of protest to its hoped-for conclusion.
We are the Center for Science and Society, a name chosen to reflect our collective ideal that science can and should be used in the ethical service of realizing a more equitable, democratic, humane, and just society. We are committed to articulating perspectives that recognize the value and place of all forms of knowledge and voices. As scientists and scholars, historians and writers, we will continue to regard it as our duty to pursue and communicate this mission through research, education, documentation, dialogues and collaboration with partners inside and outside the traditional academy.
As such, we wish to reaffirm our choice for the Center’s 2019-20 theme, Knowledge and Access, and have decided to extend our exploration of that theme through at least the 2020-21 academic year to focus on equitable and inclusive policies, systems, and digital spaces in our society. Along with our collaborators from across the University and city, we will develop programming that prioritizes underrepresented voices and reflects the diversity of our communities in New York and beyond.