NYU Steinhardt News

NYU Metro Center's Charlottesville Statement

NEW YORK, NY—The domestic terrorist event in Charlottesville, VA, on August 12, 2017; the subsequent, dismissive, and divisive remarks made by the U.S. president; and the conversations on race and racism that have ensued locate themselves in a long and turbulent pattern of call and response in which white supremacy plays hyphen. Sitting between a world that remembers and one that too readily forgets the horrors of its naked past merging almost seamlessly in stride with its neo-racist present, the fundamental logics guiding almost all American (if not global) life center whiteness in the extreme. Even the current discussions on Confederate flags and statues draw upon monuments of white empathy to humanize the violence historically and grotesquely aimed at Black, Brown, Jewish, Muslim, trans, dis/abled, etc. bodies. To understand why iconography of the Confederacy is vile and should be rejected, many have drawn examples from Nazi Germany, as if our empathies for Black humanity rest upon the aegis of white analogies. And while these analogies are themselves reeking in the miasma of white supremacy, we find them nonetheless revealing as they cajole comparisons, almost comically, of how much the nation disregards Black suffering.
 
We find it troubling that in this context, far more than Black lives, White lives matter. Never would the U.S. endure a statue of Osama Bin Laden—the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington, DC—erected in an American (White) neighborhood or community park. Neither would it suffer the existence of a Bin Laden Boulevard nor entertain—even for a second—sending White children to a Bin Laden Academy. The nation would find it reprehensible if every year people gathered en masse to parade in Central Park to commemorate and re-enact the crumbling of the Twin Towers. Perhaps more so, the nation would find it abhorrent and contemptible, and rightly so, if a survivor or a family member of a victim of 9/11 was forced to endure the dreadful mockery of re-traumatization, of events that also re-terrorize. To be clear, this example is only meant to provide a sliver of understanding, as it deals with a singular instance of terrorism and not hundreds of years of terrorism and oppression and should not be used as an excuse for Islamophobia. Yet, that we can so easily empathize with the humanity of White people is white supremacy at work. The interruption of white supremacy is, then, an empathy rooted in the concerns of people—in this case, Black people—absent the filter of whiteness.
 
Then, it should move us as a nation that, in certain Southern states, confederate flags wave freely over the very court houses that disproportionately sentence Black bodies to years of bondage and servitude. In Alabama, citizens celebrate the ideals of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., alongside the convictions of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee—as one-in-the-same holiday. To this day, the flag of the state of Mississippi, a state with a 37% and rising Black population—bears the Confederate battle flag’s saltire. The ironies are sad but astonishing.      
 
Given this, The New York University Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools unequivocally denounces the long string of terrorist events (and their antecedents) that have led up to and include the murder of Heather Heyer, the beating of DeAndre Harris, and the injuries of 19 other people. It is without hesitation that we repudiate white supremacy, all of its organized manifestations (e.g., Nazi- and neo-Nazism, the Ku Klux Klan, “white nationalism,” the so called “Alt Right”), and the underlying ideologies of suffering, fear, and hatred which fuel it. We fundamentally reject narratives that dangerously equate people fighting racism with those upholding it. We reject the idea that history is immutable, that we have no responsibility to redress crimes of the past through strategic moral revisions of the present, sensitive to the ways that symbols and icons of hatred (and the individuals they represent) terrorize people. As such, we stand in solidarity with movements around the world, such as South Africa’s Rhodes Must Fall movement, which do the work of centering the voices of the oppressed by reinforcing their truths in national historical narratives. We understand that being silent in the face of racism, whether overt or as part of an institutional structure, is unacceptable. We understand that the logical conclusion of racism moves beyond human subordination; while human subordination is cause enough to reject racism, the logical conclusion of racism is indeed human annihilation, or, put simply, genocide.
 
We affirm, then, that racism and its insufferable logics (i.e., white supremacy) have no place in human existence, understanding that the very existence of racism threatens the very existence of humanity. We reaffirm our commitment to end racism by promoting equity and opportunity in education and beyond through courageous and transformative engagements that impact the most vulnerable populations within and beyond our school systems.

         

ABOUT NYU METRO CENTER: NYU Metro Center promotes equity and opportunity in education through engaged sciences—research, program evaluation, policy analysis, and professional assistance to educational, governmental, and community agencies serving vulnerable communities and populations. Metro Center is a nationally and internationally renowned for its work on educational equity and school improvement, bringing together scholars, educators, and innovators from diverse backgrounds to collaborate on a range of projects to strengthen and improve access, opportunity, and educational quality across varied settings, but particularly in striving communities.