February 12, 2021
Across our activities, we use geographic analyses to interrogate abiding problems of the modern world.
The United States’ existence originates in the enslavement of African peoples and the settler colonial dispossession of the lands of Indigenous peoples. This foundational violence structures everyday life in the U.S. through gratuitous and spectacular violence waged against Black communities, xenophobic and racist treatment of immigrant communities, and the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous land, livelihoods, and culture. The Department of Geography at Rutgers University mourns the ongoing and tragic theft of Black life and loss due to the legacy of chattel slavery in the United States in the form of state-sanctioned and extra-legal Anti-Black violence. We express our solidarity and commit our support to those who continue to bravely engage in protests, organizing, and other acts of resistance across the country and the world. These protests seek to contest not solely the recent spate of police and white vigilante murders, but a cultural and economic landscape based upon a cruel disregard for lives that are not white, not male, not straight, and not upwardly mobile. We stand in support of ongoing calls to bring an end to the violence (physical and structural) perpetrated against Black communities and other communities of color at the hands of the police. We demand that justice be served for all victims of such violence.
The Department of Geography at Rutgers University is committed to confronting racism. This is our responsibility as public educators at the State University of New Jersey. This means ensuring that Black, Latinx, Indigenous and other POC and international students facing structural disadvantages find renewed support for academic success and physical and emotional wellbeing. This also means supporting the advancement of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Ethnic studies –both in and beyond Geography—as fields of deep intellectual significance at Rutgers and working to ensure that the politics of austerity do not threaten these vital spaces for confronting institutionalized and epistemological forms of white supremacy. These efforts require targeted work and collective action.
To this end, Rutgers Geography created an Anti-Racist Task Force, consisting of faculty and a graduate student representative, that will henceforth be a permanent facet of department programming. The Task Force works to provide material support for Black, Latinx, and other students of color; to ensure that racial justice is systematically embedded within the curriculum at graduate and undergraduate levels; to institutionalize anti-racist trainings for faculty and students; to amplify the voices of students with specific or general concerns about racism in the department, university, or community; and to pursue anti-racist community-oriented projects such as public art, institutional histories, and public speaker events. At the undergraduate level, we have begun the process of revising the learning goals for all of our degrees to include language about anti-racism and social justice. In tandem with our ongoing practice of annual program assessment, this provides a means of accountability in our program of undergrad instruction, while also ensuring that any student holding an undergraduate degree from our department will have received instruction in the area of social justice and anti-racism. At the graduate level, faculty have redesigned introductory seminars to reflect the diversity of the discipline, the Task Force is developing guidelines for best mentoring practices, and plans have been made for targeted recruitment of students of color (including supporting BIPOC undergraduate conference attendance, waiving graduate application fees for BIPOC students, and developing and institutionalizing regular exchanges with HBCUs). At the departmental level, our 2020-21 speaker series centers Blackness, Black geographies, and questions of anti-Black racism, and our 2021 MaGrann Conference will emphasize racial justice in the context of environmental toxicity. All of these events are open to the public and are oriented towards bridging academic and activist conversations.
To combat the economic, ontological, and socio-spatial factors that structure racism, we stand with students and faculty at universities across the nation and support efforts at all levels of Rutgers University to put measures and resources in place for ensuring the safety of Black and other marginalized students, staff, and faculty on campus and in surrounding municipalities from police brutality, profiling, and oppression. We also commit to supporting development of transformative, community-led initiatives based on the principles of racial justice, repair, cooperation, and community empowerment.