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Resisting Racism and White Supremacy

“This moment requires something of all of us.”

Right now our nation and our community are outraged over lives stolen, dignity denied, humanity devalued, opportunity crushed. 
But the oppression does not fall equally among us. The burden is not shared.

The murder of George Floyd was horrifying to witness. The brutality of his death, as his pleas for his life were met with callous indifference, is heartbreaking and traumatic.

No message can do justice to the despair, rage, and grief provoked by this cruel act. No words can offer solace to those in our community who suffer the constant impact of racism. If not solace, I can offer solidarity. Hampshire College supports the national protests against police brutality. Hampshire College stands with our students, our graduates, our faculty and staff who are acting to resist white supremacy. Hampshire College insists that Black Lives Matter.

Mr. Floyd’s death was a tragedy, but not an accident. Racism in America is systemic, it is structural, and it is institutional. His murder, and the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery, and the shooting of Breonna Taylor, and the state-sanctioned murders of so many other people of color, are the most shocking examples of the racism shaping our society. The disproportionate deaths that the Covid-19 pandemic imposes on black and brown people also make visible the injustices that are constitutive of the culture and political system of which Hampshire College is a part.

The protests of the past week around the nation and the world express a demand for change. I know that if Hampshire were in session our community would be protesting together, and I know many of you are participating in actions where you live. The urgency of the demand cannot be overstated, building on generations of disappointment, following countless past, equally urgent demands. Again and again, people take action in response to the intolerable; again and again, the response is to deny the reality of white supremacy and economic injustice.

Hampshire aspires to be an anti-racist institution. Hampshire affirms the ideals of social justice. Hampshire seeks to be a community that will change the world for the better. These commitments are real. I know that our pursuit of these ideals consistently falls short. As a community, especially those of us who are white, we must take up the responsibility to do more, work harder, and actively resist the structures that perpetuate institutional racism and advantage the privileged.

There is no ambiguity about the stakes of the current crisis. White supremacy animates the institutions, structures, and systems of the United States. Power, opportunity, and resources are systematically denied to people of color. The murder of George Floyd by the police, the disproportionate death of thousands of people of color because of Covid-19, stark inequalities in access to education, and so many other grave injustices are the consequence. To know this is not enough. The weight of this plea for change cannot be unequally held. Those of us who occupy positions of power, who hold privilege in this society, have an even greater responsibility to progress towards a just society—swiftly, with empathy and courage. As a community member with that privilege, I will continue to push myself, and everyone at Hampshire, to live up to the commitments our anti-racist stance demands of us.

There is much work to do, at Hampshire and in our society. Right now, I encourage you to take action to support the activists and organizers, including many members of the extended Hampshire community, placing themselves at risk in protests across the nation. If you cannot join them in person, consider donating to a legal defense fund, neighborhood relief effort, bail fund, or Black Lives Matter. This moment requires something of all of us.

Ed Wingenbach

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