Women’s and Gender Studies is a field of study forged out of the struggle to eliminate all forms of oppression. The faculty and staff of Women’s and Gender Studies here at the University of Windsor are deeply committed to continually addressing the hard questions that arise from our study of power, privilege, and violence. We strive to support all of our students through the enriching, challenging, and transformative process of acknowledging our own role in the structures of oppression we study. We attempt this work in a society that does not treat everyone as equally human and valuable. Right now, there is a global acknowledgement of the relentless systemic violence against Black people carried out through state police, policies and practices. Institutionalized racism is perpetuated through all social institutions, including Higher Education. White supremacy and racism exist in Canada and we continue to see leaders who are reluctant to call out white supremacy when we see it. As we work to be in solidarity with anti-racist organizers abroad, we will continue to address injustice here.
We are writing to you today to reaffirm that our program is committed to seeking out and addressing racism in our program and on our campus. As individual faculty members and as a program, we know this is an ongoing process of unlearning. Too many of us have been socialized to value white lives over the lives of people of colour. We are working to make sure that students of colour are fully supported and empowered through their engagement with Women’s and Gender Studies. We will continue to strengthen our teaching methods to support students to be effective allies and social change agents. We look forward to seeing each of you in our (online) classrooms in the months ahead and want you to know your well-being as well as your education is important to us.
If you have suggestions for how we can make the Women’s and Gender Studies program more accessible, supportive, and welcoming to you, please let us know.
If you are looking for support or connection with others on campus dealing with the issues, you can contact: Richard Douglass-Chin at firstname.lastname@example.org
On behalf of the faculty members in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Windsor.
(We are including this letter below from Shaianna Coleman, a fourth year Honours BSW student.)
Dear faculty and students,
I hope this email finds you all well.
My name is Shaianna Coleman and I am a fourth year student in the BSW Honours program at the School of Social Work.
In light of recent events in both the United States and Canada regarding racism and police brutality; I am not only frustrated, but exhausted as a Black woman. The recent and unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Regis Korchinski-Paquet and more- have shocked many around the world, as it should. However, for many Black communities, this is a never-ending nightmare. We, as a community, have been screaming “Black Lives Matter,” and “I Can't Breathe,” for many years now. We have demanded equal rights and justice time and time again. Still, Black bodies are brutalized at the hands of those who are meant to serve and protect us. Though this state-induced violence has made recent headlines and front page news, we need to remember as professionals and future practitioners that our work must begin at home.
Way before we are brutalized and/or murdered, Black communities face inequality and neglect among lines of healthcare, housing, education, the prison system, and the workforce. We deal with anti-Black micro-aggressions on a regular basis, and on top of that, we are told we have to work 10x harder than our white counterparts to be successful. What does that do to our psyche and mental health? What about trauma and generational trauma? How does one go about healing and feeling self-worth when constantly told the colour of their skin yields mistreatment, harassment, and harm?
These are some of the issues we as an advocacy-based profession need to work together to dismantle and combat. If not, we are only going to continue working within structures that exploit and marginalize Black communities among all intersectional lines. Exploitation and marginalization that eventually leads to stigma and scrutiny, creating a feeling of “otherness”.
This is part of a much larger discussion, and I urge all students, professors, deans, and the entire School of Social Work to think about what they are doing to contribute to, or combat these injustices. Are you working/teaching from an intersectional frame of reference? Are you listening to communities of colour when they talk about their experiences? Have you acknowledged your biases? Have you decolonized your mind? Are you ready to be uncomfortable? To be challenged?
Protesting and rioting has taken place in both Canada and the US as a means of solidarity during this time. Black people and amazing allies have come together to combat institutional violence and resist white supremacy. Not everyone’s style of activism aligns with frontline protesting and that is OK. However, if you are a non-POC and are not interested in equal rights for Black people, or becoming an effective ally, respectfully refrain from making suggestions for us or how we should exercise our resistance.
Social Work distinguishes itself from other helping professions by the priority it places on social justice, human rights, advocacy, and empowerment. It is a value-laden profession committed to practicing in accordance with the Social Work values and code of ethics. Social Work takes into account how social structures & institutions, as well as power dynamics, sustain these social issues, and how client systems respond and react to their social conditions. A core value in Social Work is the importance of addressing and combating the fact that many major institutions perpetuate certain social issues, which in turn can further oppress affect the well-being of marginalized groups in a society. With that being said, I feel it is my responsibility as a student and future practitioner to speak up about things that pose a contradiction and/or go against the well-being of those we want to help.
With that I add, there are many ways to show genuine support. Do your research, listen to the frustrations and experiences of Black people (regardless of how uncomfortable it may make you feel), check your privilege, and practice effective allyship.
I hope this email serves as a torch passing to my fellow BSW students and to the faculty of this program. I encourage you all to exercise ways in which you can help and get involved that do not take away from your social distancing. Below I have listed some links to credible petitions and places to donate (both Canadian and US):
- Justice for George Floyd
- Petition - Justice for Regis
- ZERO tolerance for Anti-Black, Brown and Indigenous Racism in Ontario Schools
- Arrest the Three Other Officers Involved in the Death of George Floyd!
- STAND WITH BREONNA
- Justice for Ahmaud Arbery
- GEORGE FLOYD (BIGFLOYD)
- Minnesota Freedom Fund
- SUPPORT THE BROOKLYN COMMUNITY BAIL FUND
- I Run With Maud
- Justice for Regis
- Columbus Freedom Fund
- Support #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd Protestors in Atlanta
In loving memory and support of all Black lives lost.