The members of the Professional Staff Congress join working people across the country and the world in condemning the state-sanctioned police violence that continues to terrorize—and is designed to terrorize—communities of color, especially African American communities. We grieve with the families and loved ones of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Ramarley Graham, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sean Bell, Kendra James, Anthony Baez, Amadou Diallo and many, many other black and brown people who have died as the result of a policy of racist police violence.
This country was founded on racial terror, and now the COVID crisis has laid bare the ways in which the United States continues to be structured by policies of racial violence. “Even before COVID,” as the Reverend William Barber writes, “large numbers of black Americans died because of the racial disparities in healthcare, which are systemic and not unintentional.”
The COVID emergency must signal the end of what Toni Morrison calls “the fundamental innocence of Americanness.” A country in which black people are dying of the pandemic at more than twice the rate of white people, in which communities of color are supplying the majority of “essential workers” yet suffering the greatest economic devastation, in which “reopening the economy” is more important than the black and brown and poor people whose lives it will cost, is a country that must change—not return to normal. “Normal” is murderous.
PSC members stand with our students, the majority of whom are people of color, as they try to absorb the news of yet another killing of an African American man at the hands of the police. CUNY students have already been traumatized by the effect of the virus on their families, their studies and their communities; they should not have to live their lives in fear that they will be killed for jogging, gardening, shopping or bird-watching.
We stand with each other, recognizing that safety is not distributed equally in a society structured by racism. At a time when the virus has made every New Yorker feel unsafe, PSC members extend our support and compassion to each other. Many of us live with fear and vulnerability every day in New York City. The murder of George Floyd has deepened our vulnerability and made many of us feel doubly unsafe.
And we stand with those who are rising up and bravely demanding that racial terror, whether by policy, underfunding, state-sanctioned violence or a premature opening of the economy, must end.
As unionists and academic workers, the members of the PSC have a special responsibility to oppose racism, teach anti-racism and work for racial and economic justice. The City University of New York at its best is a project of racial justice, and it has been constantly embattled because of that project. We call on the CUNY Board of Trustees to take a public stand against the “not unintentional” de-funding of CUNY and for internal reform of policies that re-inscribe racism within CUNY itself. Our union’s long campaign for full funding for CUNY, a campaign that has gained new urgency now, has always been a fight against racist disinvestment. We recommit ourselves to that fight and to the broader movement of which it is a part.
May 31, 2020