Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
June 5, 2020
We, the members of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee in the School of Art and Art History write to support our students, faculty, staff, and community and to register our disdain and horror at the use of harmful military tactics by law enforcement like tear gas, batons, bodily force, and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters; not just in Iowa City, and across the United States but around the world. As people in our communities enact their rights to raise their voices and march in solidarity against anti-blackness and the killing of innocent Black people by police and through state sponsored violence, we should be insisting that the state support our first amendment rights to assemble peaceably and petition our government. We should insist that police fulfill their mission to protect and serve; this means they should protect protestors and use non harmful tactics to deescalate violence and keep the peace, which they failed to do on June 3, 2020. Although, the response on the night of June 4, 2020, was remarkably different, we recognize this as a choice on the part of law enforcement, when in fact it is a constitutional right of our citizens. We applaud our university for seeking some steps toward reform as stated in the letter they released today and the joint statement they created with city leaders. https://www.icgov.org/news/iowa-city-and-university-iowa-issue-joint-statement-police-policy-following-george-floyd
Violence in the face of rebellion, peaceful or otherwise, is baked into the history of the United States. Once again, our country has erupted because of our long history of anti-blackness, white supremacy and state sponsored violence against people of color. George Floyd’s senseless and brutal murder at the hands of police was a catalytic spark, but the pile of tinder has been building for 400 years. So many Black lives have been extinguished by slavery, police, vigilante lynching and mob violence, and our current “justice” system through incarceration and state sponsored executions. We cannot continue to ignore the toll that this has and is taking on our country.
There is no way to discount the wrong actions of some protesters. There have been fires, looting, property damage, and interpersonal violence across the country. These are expressions of anger and despair. There is also no way to not recognize that protest is not a first resort but a response to not being heard, and it is one of the most effective tools for beginning and creating broad sweeping social change. Often the violence that occurs reminds the public at large that they do not have the stomach for such horror, or that these "interruptions" are not dissimilar to the way others are forced to live their entire lives in this country. These experiences motivate society to make change and stop violence. Only then will our elected and appointed leaders acquiesce, and finally acknowledge the things they have ignored for so long. We want to remind people that stores can be rebuilt, monuments can be cleaned, but a life can never be returned once it is taken.
We acknowledge that our university community is going to join with other communities across our country to review law enforcement practices, hold campus law enforcement accountable when they harm the people they are sworn to protect, stand against police brutality, eliminate attitudes of racism and anti-blackness, and re-examine our relationship with the Iowa City Police Department. We applaud the involvement of students in these efforts.
In closing we want to affirm our support of civil dialog, education, and peaceful protest. We want to send a message of love and solidarity to our faculty, staff, and students who bravely enacted their first amendment rights during these ongoing June protests. Our work has just begun, and we want you to know we stand with you because Black Lives Matter.
School of Art & Art History Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee