The Centre College Religion Program affirms our solidarity and commitment to transforming the structures that create and preserve racism, White supremacy, and injustice.
In just a few short weeks, we have learned the names of David McAtee, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery. These names are only the most recent in a long and tragic list of Black people who have been victims of the structural and systemic racism that continues to plague this country. The recent deaths of Black people at the hands of police have only brought to light, even more profoundly than before, the violence and inequity that has long been present. We mourn with our students, colleagues, and communities in this time of national tragedy, and we stand in solidarity with our current and former students—especially our students of color—who are placing themselves on the front lines, protesting injustice, calling and working for change.
The pandemic has already made the vast socio-economic and racial inequities in our world—and even among our student body—more apparent, revealing disparities in access to health care, the internet, work environments, and job and food security. As human beings, we are outraged and disturbed by the violence we see waged against people simply because of the color of their skin. As scholars of religion, we are appalled by the use and abuse of spiritual symbols and sacred space in the service of perpetuating violence against protestors. Through these acts, people in power use religion to subvert the ideals of democracy. We also are moved by the many ways that people have drawn upon rituals of mourning and protest to create public spaces of pilgrimage and memorial, transforming sites of violence into holy ground. Through these acts, people are claiming and inverting dominant, normative, and racist narratives, revealing hard and painful truths.
As a program whose faculty are predominantly White, male, and of Christian background, we are well aware that many of us benefit from White privilege and that all of us possess power and privilege not only in our institution but in the world at large. We recognize too that we are implicated and complicit in systems that perpetuate racism. We pledge to make our classrooms places in which issues of inequity—racism, classism, religious discrimination, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.—are scrutinized and challenged. We are committed to trying to use our power for good. We recognize that transforming society is a process that requires constant learning and self-scrutiny. We welcome opportunities to educate and to be educated about the structures that perpetuate White supremacy, White privilege, and oppression. And we support the efforts to tear down those structures.
Yours in sorrow, indignation, and solidarity,
Lee Jefferson, Rick Axtell, David Hall, Matthew Pierce, and Shana Sippy