UMBC History Faculty Statement on Systemic Racial Injustice
We grieve the recent and brutal killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and George Floyd. They represent only the latest in a long pattern of violence directed against Black men and women in the United States, violence that has been all too often enacted or enabled by police. These recent killings unfolded against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, a pandemic that has disproportionately taken Black lives as a result of systemic racial and economic discrimination.
We understand why people have taken to the public square to express their outrage and their frustration. As historians, we know that unrest of this nature also has a long history in human societies. As scholars, we recognize that peaceful protests, property damage, and civil uprising are all ways that oppressed people have expressed themselves when the state refuses to address their needs. Those who critique the current protests for failing to adhere to a simplistic model of the 1960s U.S. civil rights movement distort a history in which civil actions that began peacefully often ended in violence, sometimes by the very police officers charged with maintaining peace.
The faculty of the Department of History at UMBC has broad interest in protest, power, and change in history. We recognize our responsibility to help illuminate how societal structures have enforced racial and economic inequality. We work to illustrate how individuals have struggled to shape better worlds, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
Our study of the past tells us that real change only begins with protest. It also requires sustained dialogue and political engagement. As a discipline, history advances methods of inquiry, discussion, and interpretation that can create a solid foundation for advancing social change. As a Department, we are committed to creating an inclusive atmosphere for the kinds of critical inquiry and community engagement that can help challenge systems of oppression.
For a tool to help you talk about race from a historically grounded position, look here: https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race
-The UMBC History Department