Dear Members of the Barnard Community,
By and by all trace is gone, and what is forgotten is not only the footprints but the water too and what is down there. The rest is weather. … Just weather. —Toni Morrison, Beloved
In the weeks since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, we have witnessed social movements demanding that we commit ourselves, as individuals, as a country, and as institutions, to dismantling racism where we find it. As President Beilock wrote in her letter last week, as an institution we unequivocally stand against anti-Black violence and are committed to the work of racial justice at Barnard. Together we can work to change the weather.
Collectively, we seek to advocate for justice for the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Monterossa, Ahmaud Arbery, and David McAtee. We remember all those who have died from anti-Black violence. We say their names to guard against erasure. We recognize the disproportionate impact the pandemic and anti-black violence have had on the black identifying members of Barnard. Our institution, though working steadily on racial equity, still has much work to do. I write today with a perspective to share, an overview of what Barnard is already engaged in, and an invitation to participate in the work of racial justice within yourselves and within your various communities.
In April 2019, several members of Barnard Public Safety physically restrained Alexander McNab, a Black undergraduate at Columbia University. For many on campus, this incident symbolized the persistent anti-Blackness of policing. It led to the creation of the Community Safety Group (CSG), whose work has continued over this past year. Some of this year’s work has included:
Building relationships across public safety, faculty, staff, and students
Researching and identifying a campus climate survey to deepen institutional understanding about the experiences of students of color. The CSG enrolled in the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates, which was rescheduled to Fall 2020 due to the pandemic. We plan to move forward with the survey as soon as it is feasible to do so
Evaluating the policies and procedures of Barnard Public Safety and its relationship to Columbia Public Safety and the NYPD (per New York law, Barnard Public Safety coordinates with the NYPD on crime investigation and reporting)
Working closely with the Interim Executive Director of Public Safety to develop a unit with enhanced training around psychosocial safety, anti-racism, and a deeper understanding of the diversity of identities in the Barnard community
A collective revision of the Public Safety mission statement
A Town Hall dedicated to safety and open/closed campus culture
The Council for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion worked steadily over the fall semester and part of the spring to continue moving forward the work of DEI @ Barnard. Some of what the council did this year was:
- Oversaw the Inclusion Grant, which funds a broad range of DEI efforts at Barnard, including the Bold Conference, a student-led, all-day event that focused on facilitating campus conversations to strengthen teaching and learning at Barnard College, and archival projects that offered researchers time and resources to explore new methods and processes around centralizing questions of race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability in DH work. The next call for Inclusion Grant proposals will be in September.
- Established a reading group and held a weekly reading group and culminating workshop for staff and faculty on The Inner Work of Racial Justice by Rhonda Magee.
When we say we take a stand against systemic racism and white supremacy, we must commit and recommit ourselves to the identification and elimination of those systems, behaviors, and beliefs in our own “homes,” which, often with casual unawareness, traffic in anti-Blackness, oppression, and class hierarchies. This work, the work of anti-racism, must begin within each of us and within the communities where we live.
Beginning Monday, June 22, we will offer an ongoing time to reflect, respond, understand, enact, and reimagine racial justice at Barnard and how to work on anti-racism in our own lives and communities. Each Monday, I will convene a morning assembly from 9 to 10 a.m. to provide space for support and study for racial justice. Some topics we hope to address during these times are:
- Mindfulness and the practice of anti-racism
- Understanding racial justice and racial capital in higher education
- Civic engagement with city government efforts on reallocation of funding from policing to youth initiatives, public health and public schools.
If you are interested in participating or have suggestions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for the Zoom link and further details.
As an academic community, we are comfortable with study. In this moment, I ask you to evaluate what your study unsettles. What does it do to transform deeply held beliefs toward greater justice and equity? What does study for racial equity look like? I wish this were quick and easy work. Those of you engaged in it know it is not. Academic life should not shrink from seemingly insurmountable social and personal challenges. Barnard offers a range of majors, projects, and courses that provide ample opportunity to engage in such work. Barnard’s Foundations requires that all students spend at least one course Thinking About Social Difference. The work of BCRW and the Consortium of Critical Interdisciplinary Studies are also long-standing examples of dedicated interdisciplinary study of “race and ethnicity in their mutual constitution with gender, class, and nation” at Barnard.
I invite those of you who have not yet engaged with self-evaluation or racial equity to begin this work now unashamed of what you do not know or understand. If there was ever a time to study, to self-study, it is now. Included below you will find a brief list of racial equity and racial justice resources to help get started. I encourage all of you to have hope that together we can create new possible worlds beyond racial violence. Hoping to see you show up on Mondays for racial justice at Barnard and beyond.
Ariana González Stokas
Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation
M4BL – Black Like We Never Left
Freedom to Thrive: Reimagining Safety & Security in Our Communities
Suggested summer reads:
In the Wake: On Blackness and Being
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?
- Police Violence Syllabus
- Political Protests and Movements of Resistance Syllabus
- Prison and the Carceral State Syllabus
- Racial Justice Syllabus