June 10, 2020
SWS Statement on White Supremacy
An SWS Call to Action
The recent racist threat toward Christian Cooper and the murders of Black people –Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd and other victims of violence–are not isolated events. These are historical and pervasive incidents from the result of a system built on white supremacy. COVID-19 laid bare how racism is a public health crisis, with an overrepresentation of Black people being hospitalized for the virus, leading Roxane Gay to state “[t]he disparities that normally fracture our culture are becoming even more pronounced as we decide, collectively, what we choose to save — what deserves to be saved.”
The policing and weaponizing of white fear by law enforcement and non-Black people are also not the result of a few bad actors. Black individuals continue to endure racist discrimination related to profiling, criminalization, and state violence. These same Black people have led the effort to dismantle racist oppression.
As feminist sociologists and scholars it is our duty to be co-conspirators in the movement for making Black lives matter.
To Black feminist members: We offer our sincerest and heartfelt condolences not only to the families and friends of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and George Floyd, but also to those in the Black community who are mourning. We acknowledge the grief, anguish, and outrage that is being felt throughout the Black community, which many of us are a part of. These persistent tragedies of racist violence and harassment leaves us deeply saddened. As a community of scholars, we remain committed to our mission of “promoting social justice through local, national, and international activism.” This commitment calls for us to be critically active in eradicating injustices related to racism, sexism, and other forms of oppressive systems and structures.
We see you, we hear you, and stand in solidarity against the racism and injustices that our Black community faces daily.
To white and non-Black feminist members: It is time to think deeply about our positionality. Our work is not feminist if it does not embrace and embody anti-racism and reject anti-blackness. It is clear how Amy Coopers’ racism is unacceptable – and – the power that we can inflict through our positionality as white and non-black feminists can be a form of violence. It is imperative that we look within ourselves to see the parts of us that are reflected in her actions. Racial justice work is not only understanding the intricate systems of inequality built into our social institutions, but a practice of deep reflexivity to understand how we are implicated in racist oppression.
Black colleagues across the country have long expressed how hard it is to be the only voice of dissonance for their students before this moment, and there is no time like the present to become an accomplice. Here are some links to get you started:
- Racism in Anti-Racism
- Anti-Racism Resources for White People
- A twitter thread on what to do next
- The Violence of White Silence
- 75 things White People can do for Racial Justice
- Why Black Lives Matter Curriculum
- Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources
Sociologists for Women in Society was founded as a response to institutionalized gender discrimination at ASA – and we have work to do in house to grapple with ways our institution has been complacent in racism in academia. Our current Council includes just two white voting members – a signifier of our path forward as an institution. We are currently working with the SWS Executive Office and other SWS leaders to develop a proposal to fund the research for a Department Report Card on the Status of Race Equity & Scholarship, to go alongside our Feminist Friendly Department & Lavender report cards. This tool is designed to support faculty and graduate students in 1) holding their departments accountable in the movement for Black lives and 2) to help graduate students understand the landscape of racism within departments before applying. If you are interested in working on this proposal, please reach out to Barret Katuna, Executive Officer at email@example.com.
We urge white and non-Black feminist members to uplift Black voices, and demand solidarity from our institutions. If you are wondering how to get involved, remember that we are all educators. It is our duty as educators to serve those among us who are most marginalized – including working to dismantle racist oppression.
- Encourage your department to hire more Black faculty
- Write an email to your department urging solidarity
- Write an email to your students
- Read Black Women & #CiteBlackWomen
- Center Black scholarship in your syllabi, and decolonize your classroom
- Know your history of institutionalized racism in the US
- Join Academics for Black Survival and Wellness Week – Friday, June 19 – Thursday, June 25, 2020
- If you are Department Chair, take steps to foster inclusion
- Follow the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association of Anthropologists and other professional and scholarly societies in supporting #ShutDownAcademia / #ShutDownSTEM, a grassroots movement with a goal to “transition to a lifelong commitment of actions to eradicate anti-Black racism in academia and STEM.” This is being held Today, Wednesday, June 10, 2020.
- Listen to & uplift Black students and colleagues
- Practice deep reflexivity
- Do not rely on your Black colleagues to educate you on racism and anti-blackness
- Develop a required reflexivity training in research methods courses – for undergrad and graduate students
- Develop a required reflexivity training among faculty
- Be a voice in meetings and committees speaking in support of Black students and faculty and out against racist ideas, microaggressions, and aggressions
- Push college leadership (administration, senate, etc.) to support Black student and faculty recruitment, promotions, social justice work and abolitionist pedagogy
- Consider forming a faculty and student-led Social Justice Project to run regular workshops, advocate for black students and provide ongoing information to faculty
- Organize workshops and discussions for faculty to discuss white supremacy and racism in teaching and pedagogy
Please Click HERE to see the listing of the current SWS Council Members.
Message Sent to SWS Members on June 2, 2020
These are challenging times we are living in. In so many ways our lives have been disrupted or put on pause as we navigate the various stages of the COVID-19 Pandemic, hoping things will get back to “normal.” And now, we are in the throes of competing epidemics, this time in the form of systemic racism, as seen in Amy Cooper’s false 911 Central Park call on Christian Cooper, the murder of George Floyd by four police officers in Minneapolis, the killing of Ahmaud Arbery while jogging by two armed White men in South Georgia, and the shooting of Breonna Taylor in her own home by police officers in Kentucky. Lest we forget, Tony McDade, a Black transgender man was also killed by police in Tallahassee, Florida on May 27th, 2020.
As sociologists, we know that these are not isolated incidents and that they form part of a historical process of systemic racism against Black men, women, trans, non-binary and intersex people in this country. As an intersectional feminist professional organization, we know that the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and other oppressive structures are key components that must be recognized and acknowledged in any conversation about these injustices. Not only has COVID-19 disrupted our way of life and our comfort zones, but it has disproportionately affected people of color, particularly Black communities who are most often frontline workers or among the poorest in our society. Statistics are clear that they are disproportionately impacted by unemployment, loss of housing, positive test cases and deaths from this virus and homicides generally. Likewise, statistics are clear about disproportionate rates of police brutality, sentencing and imprisonment of Black and Brown people, rape and sexual abuse of Black and Brown women, and violence against LGBTQI communities. Institutional racism is a painful experience for all who have to live through it whether in the United States or abroad, past or present.
This country needs to do better and we need to be more self-reflective about how we position ourselves in this conversation and everyday actions, whether as individuals (e.g., how we practice social justice in our own lives, professionally and personally), and in what kind of changes we want to see in our society. SWS has to be part of this conversation and make its voice heard in our scholarship, pedagogy, and activism. We should condemn recent atrocities perpetrated by the police on Black people and stand in solidarity with the protest movements across the country and around the world. We are having conversations and preparing a formal statement for the public. But as we do this work, we wanted to make it clear that we stand in solidarity with our Black students and colleagues and with all communities of color widely. We invite you to share your thoughts, concerns, and ideas about ways in which SWS can support Black feminist membership at this time and moving forward.
SWS Council and SWS Co-Chairs of the Sister to Sister Committee
Please stay tuned for additions to this conversation.
I’m writing as a member of ASA’s Status of LGBTQ People in Sociology committee collaborating with a task for ASA’s Teresa Ciabattari convened regarding the ways ASA surveys members about sex, gender, and sexualities. Alex Hanna, Nik Lampe, and Alicia VandeVusse have put together a proposal for the member survey questions to be changed and are hoping to include endorsements from some ASA Section councils if they are willing. I’ve been tasked with asking whether the SWS Council would consider endorsing this proposal. And we have a quick turnaround (sorry). Would you be open to sending this to Council members to ask whether they would be willing to endorse the proposal (link to the proposal below)?https://docs.google.com/document/d/1htFW5bUh2UMFVq3KDK8mjBwQUGZUBvDlUVq_d2-Wz90/edit?usp=sharing If you’d be willing, we’d love to include SWS Council’s endorsement before submitting the proposal to ASA. And we would need to know by Friday this week (sorry for the quick turnaround). Let me know if you have any questions and thank you for your consideration.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
You may have been following reports following New York’s passage of the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), asserting that the RHA somehow increases the risk of gender violence. We are writing to ask you to sign on to and join the attached statement challenging those claims and other false claims linking laws criminalizing abortion and related feticide laws with protection of women from violence.
Claims that laws such as the RHA pose a threat to women’s safety, and that laws criminalizing abortion somehow protect people from gender violence are dangerous and totally unfounded. We write to speak out against gender violence in all its forms and to oppose false claims about criminal abortion laws that distract attention from real threats to life and health.
We call for laws and policies based on evidence-based research and urge all those who are truly concerned with preventing intimate partner and other forms of gender violence to oppose laws that can be used to criminalize people for seeking to control their bodies and their lives. Instead, they should support universal health care and other needed services for everyone, including survivors.
This statement will be circulated broadly to policymakers and to the media whenever this issue (equating criminal abortion laws with protecting pregnant women from violence) emerges. For example, this statement will provide important insights and framing in states such as Rhode Island and Vermont where activists are working to repeal their old criminal abortion laws and replace them with laws like the RHA that actually respect the life and health of everyone, including those with the capacity for pregnancy. It will anticipate and be used to oppose false claims and counterproductive policy proposals that emerge whenever there is a high profile murder of or attack on a pregnant woman. And, the statement, posted online, will stand as a repudiation of such things as the Kansas Resolution condemning New York’s RHA. The statement also will inform conversations about gender violence occurring in the wake of Alabama’s sweeping anti-abortion legislation that effectively bans all abortions without an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
To sign on, please click here. The new deadline for signing on is Friday, June 14th.
Thanks in advance, and in solidarity,
Joint Appeal to Defend NGO Rights & Protest Anti-Muslim Racism by China, NWSA Statement Endorsement
May 22, 2019
The National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) is a professional association of feminist scholars committed to social justice and academic inquiry. We strongly condemn the current attacks on reproductive choice and add our voice to the chorus of opposition. Autonomy over our bodies, including our reproductive choices, is fundamental. NWSA members have upheld this principle in our scholarship and practice for over four decades. We reiterate it today in these urgent times.
The new spate of laws limiting the right to abortion that is sweeping the country is alarming. In the past few months Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri have passed restrictive legislation with other states poised to pass similar laws. In most of these cases, state legislators have made abortion illegal when a so-called “fetal heartbeat” is detected, which is usually around six weeks; in reality, what is being measured is fetal cardiac pole activity, since a six-week fetus does not have a heart. Alabama’s law goes further and prohibits all abortion except when necessary to save the mother’s life. The aim of these laws is to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
The new laws are just one manifestation of a very long history of controlling women’s reproduction that includes forcing enslaved Black women to reproduce for economic profit; encouraging white women to reproduce to prevent “race suicide”; enacting forced sterilization on populations (often majority people of color) deemed unfit; outlawing abortion and birth control; reducing access to health care for poor pregnant mothers or neonatal babies; drug testing pregnant women and taking their babies if they test positive; forcing incarcerated people to labor and give birth in chains; and limiting welfare and childcare assistance to impoverished women.
The women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s saw reproductive rights as inextricably linked to liberation and the full personhood of women, fighting on multiple fronts to ensure that women have freedom to control their reproduction, including abortion rights, an end to forced sterilization, access to birth control and the expansion of social and economic support for poor mothers and children. More recently, “reproductive justice” has been elaborated by Black women and other women of color as a broad framework that names these historic struggles and offers a human rights basis for the fight, saying that every individual must have the right to decide if and when they will have a child and the conditions under which they will give birth; decide if they will not have a child and their options for preventing or ending a pregnancy; parent the children they already have with the necessary social supports in safe environments and healthy communities, and without fear of violence from individuals or the government; and, have bodily autonomy free from all forms of reproductive oppression.
Since the passage of Roe v. Wade, there has been a concerted effort to undermine the substance of the Supreme Court decision. In 1977, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal funding for abortion and made it less accessible to poor women. In addition, states have imposed prohibitive regulations on abortion providers, imposed a “global gag rule” that denies US federal funding to any overseas organization that provides or even counsels women on abortion, and instituted myriad other measures.
The current spate of laws affects all people who can get pregnant, but hits poor women, women of color, gender-variant, and trans individuals the hardest since they often have fewer options. NWSA stands firm in its support of reproductive justice and condemns any attempt to curtail or control the reproductive decisions of anyone.
SIGNED by the Executive Committee (EC) with affiliations*
Premilla Nadasen, President, Barnard College
Barbara Ransby, Past President, University of Illinois at Chicago
Diane Harriford, Vice President, Vassar College
Patti Duncan, Secretary, Oregon State University
Karma Chávez, Treasurer, The University of Texas at Austin
(*affiliations for identification purposes only)