Published: June 5, 2020

Dear Colleagues and Community,

Words are inadequate for this moment, but we cannot stay silent. The anti-Black racism on painful display over the past weeks demands full acknowledgment and denunciation. The latest instances of racialized murder—Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd—are layered on top of countless others, upon centuries of racial violence, and upon a pandemic that is already disproportionately killing African American people due to systemic racism and racial injustice of many kinds. The trauma, fear and exhaustion constantly accumulating in Black bodies and lives across communities and histories is unspeakable, even as we must speak of it. CMCI is grieving for the precious lives lost and reeling from the agony spilling into streets all over the country. We unequivocally support those who are fighting for racial justice through protest and other means, including many of our own colleagues, students and alumni.

Words are not enough in this moment, and action will help. Let’s not be content to condemn the acts and institutions of others, or to feel anger and sadness about injustices happening elsewhere, when we have our own systems and practices that need attention. We need look no further than this college for ways to challenge anti-Black racism and other forms of discrimination in our own community—for example, by diversifying the content of our courses; developing our capacity for difficult conversations about race; recruiting, retaining and supporting African American students, faculty and staff; rethinking how we assign and value service; interrogating our micro-interactions for subtle dynamics that pile up and make working here harder for some; recognizing and learning to share the extra labor performed by faculty and staff of color as they support marginalized students, issues and events; and reviewing standard modes of operation that normalize whiteness. The key is to proactively learn and keep learning, on our own and in practice together, no matter how much we think we already know. CMCI has begun to provide the guidance, opportunities and leadership that enable such learning, and we will continue to invest in growing these resources (for more on our work thus far, visit our website.)

Words can be a powerful start, but there is so much more to do. As we absorb mediated images and reports of unfolding events, as journalists and critical media producers put themselves in harm’s way to tell the stories, as we process data visualizations that compare policing practices, as we sift through racializing discourses and social movement rhetoric, as we participate in organizing communication—we cannot help but see that what we do here at CMCI is critical to this unsettled moment and whatever happens next. We are called to challenge framings of Black protestors as “looters” and “thugs,” which perpetuate racist discourses of Black criminality. We are called to recognize the dangerous abuse and exploitation of Black organizing for other agendas and, thus, to stop the spread of misinformation with careful, ethical data and storytelling. We are called to interrogate how technology is used to surveil and monitor Black bodies and protestors of color at higher rates. Let’s bring more CMCI expertise and skill to the fight for racial justice and, specifically, against anti-Black racism. Let’s bring the racial learning and healing so desperately needed into our classrooms, offices, Zoom-rooms and homes.    

Soon, you will hear more from us about the two streams of action against anti-Black racism described here:

  1. Ongoing internal college reflection and change, and
  2. Bringing college expertise to bear on public practice.

We know this is an already stressful time, teeming with uncertainty about the next academic year. Our intent is not to intensify the strain, but to train our collective eye on the urgent question: How can we rise to the pandemic moment in a way that advances racial justice, in our college community and beyond?

We realize that some may find this message too radical and others, not radical enough. Our goal is not to express a college stance everyone can agree with, or to issue a satisfactory statement. Such efforts can become part of the problem, hollow gestures toward change that preserve the status quo. Our hope is different: To take a risk with words and continue hard conversations toward transformative encounters. For as CMCI knows all too well, communication that keeps it real can sow the seeds of meaningful change.  

More to come, and hold us to it.

From the CMCI Faculty Leadership Team

  • Mark Amerika, Founding Director of Intermedia Art, Writing and Performance
  • Karen Ashcraft, Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Lori Bergen, CMCI Founding Dean
  • Robin Burke, Department Chair of Information Science
  • Andrew Calabrese, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs and Research
  • Nabil Echchaibi, Founding Department Chair of Media Studies
  • Steve Jones, Assistant Dean of Student Success
  • Tim Kuhn, Chair of CMCI Faculty Council
  • Teri Rueb, Department Chair of Critical Media Practices
  • Peter Simonson, Department Chair of Communication
  • Elizabeth Skewes, Department Chair of Journalism and Interim Chair of Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design
  • Cindy White, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Curriculum and Programs