Statement by the President of the Association of Black Sociologists
http://theglutengal.com/2008/08 “[W]e are ready for the lifetime of work and struggle before us.”
Combahee River Collective Statement (1977)
The ancestral and philosophical mandate of Black sociology is Black liberation. Yet, in many places across our profession and discipline, the connection with this mandate is deeply fraught, wherein enduring abuses of all kinds (spiritual, sexual, intellectual, and emotional) are common and often implicitly considered par for the course for Black sociologists. As many of us have come to know over the past several weeks, serious allegations of rape, coercion, and predatory patriarchal masculinity have been brought to the fore through the emancipatory courage of Jazmine Walker when she broke her silence against a former member of the Association of Black Sociologists, Robert L. Reece (Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Texas-Austin). We are learning from her story and the many other stories of women of varying ages she has shared since her initial statements that there is much more work for us all to do to ensure that we are protecting Black people. We want especially to ensure that we are protecting Black women and other persons with marginalized gender identities who are uniquely predisposed to the relentless nature of rape culture endemic to heteropatriarchy whereby their lives and dreams are at multiple jeopardies. Finally, we want to hold accountable the people who commit violence against these groups.
Jazmine, like too many cis, nonbinary, transgender and/or queer women, as well as their cis, nonbinary, transgender and/or queer men colleagues, have been made to endure horrors and traumas enacted upon them by fellow scholars, peers, professors, mentors, and advisors who prey on and attack them professionally, mentally, and physically. As a result, this sexual abuse and violence—and the surrounding culture of silence—too often thwart and coopt the pursuit of projects and ideas about Black people’s liberation, yet again deferring our dreams for and about how we get free. As the Combahee River Collective reminded us more than forty years ago: “We know that there is such a thing as racial-sexual oppression which is neither solely racial nor solely sexual, e.g., the history of rape of Black women.”
While initially centered on Robert L. Reece, Jazmine’s bravery and disclosure is a broader call to action. This is a necessary opportunity to hold ourselves accountable for our own forms of silence complicity in reproducing patterns of sexual terror, assault, and violence. Again, we all must do so much more to ensure that Black people, especially the most marginalized of us, are protected and safe.
Since our founding during the modern Civil Rights and Black Power movements, the Association of Black Sociologists has maintained a steadfast commitment to the celebration and affirmation of Black knowledge, Black love, and Black power. As Jazmine’s powerful call for justice and accountability demonstrates, however, we must restore and recommit ourselves to the liberation and protection of all of us. This is especially true for the protection of Black women and Black LGBTQ people within and outside of the academy, who may remain at the margins of our discipline, mainstream societies, and politics, but are yet at the center of scenes of subjection that include denigration, dismissiveness, disbelief, and targeted acts of violence and aggression.
Thank you, Jazmine, for your appeal to us to have a higher sense of our duties and obligations to one another. Thank you for imploring all of us to be better, to do better, and to protect better. Thank you for encouraging us to break our silence, which too many of us endure as both as survivors and advocates Thank you for reminding us that silence does not save anyone but the oppressors, aggressors and abusers. This is the silence they bank on; the silence that allows the list of those they victimize to grow minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, year by year, century by century, discipline by discipline, over and over again.
As president, my goal is to ensure that the Association of Black Sociologists is unapologetically Black, unapologetically Black feminist, and unapologetically invested in the freedom dreams and struggles of Black people across the globe. The Association of Black Sociologists is actively working on a formal and progressive process of reporting and responding to reports of abusive behavior. As an organization, we are committed to doing better, listening more, and standing in solidarity with survivors so that those who disclose are affirmed, believed, and so that violators are held accountable. For those who are tittering between disclosure and continued silence, please know the Association of Black Sociologists is deeply invested in providing/being a place and space where you can be safe and free to speak your pain, shame and survival in spite of your attackers’ best attempts to destroy you, your career, and your livelihood.
For some of us did not die, and thus we owe it to one another to love, protect, and support each other by any means necessary. There are and can be no gray areas to this commitment nor around the safety and security of the bodies and freedom dreams of Black people. Liberation requires truth sharing among, and integrity within, the collective as we resist and persist together toward a more equitable and beautiful world. A world where Black lives not only matter but are freed and protected from the senseless and targeted violence and trauma that haunts and follow us, whether by the hands of agents of the State, colleagues, mentors, family members, interlocutors, or intimate partners.
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Dr. Marcus Anthony Hunter President, Association of Black Sociologists April 11, 2018