The Department of Sociology adds its voice to the mounting number of students, faculty and staff calling for the Boston College administration to acknowledge the growing discontent in the nation and the campus community around issues of race, inequality, and police accountability. Although the recent grand jury decisions not to indict the killers of Michael Brown and Eric Garner ignited the protests in Ferguson, MO and New York City, the killing of unarmed Black men, women and children in this country is nothing new. Having gained the widespread media attention due to the protests they generated, these cases vividly illustrate the ongoing subjugation of Black people in every phase of the criminal justice system. From pedestrian and motor vehicle stops (Stop-And-Frisk & Driving While Black), to incarceration rates and sentencing discrepancies, to the likelihood of being shot dead by police, sociology and other social sciences have amassed an abundance of empirical data demonstrating that Black Americans are treated unequally and killed disproportionately by law enforcement.
Thus, the recent events in Ferguson and Staten Island are not aberrations but reflective of a reality that millions of Americans who are Black and Brown face every day. The fact that the police officers in these cases failed to be indicted is yet another reminder of the existence of two separate but unequal justice systems. These systems remain divided by race and operate by different sets of rules.
These are serious issues. Indeed, they are issues of life and death. And it is important for the University to engage in these sometimes difficult, but very important conversations because they affect us all at BC. Some students, faculty, and staff come from the very racial backgrounds and communities that are most likely to suffer these horrors. Some are in positions of authority to help alleviate these injustices. And we all have the ability to act. Thus, the entire BC community is implicated in the injustices around us. We cannot simply be observers. We must be participants.
We recommend that faculty, academic departments, and the Division of Student Affairs make space in their curricula and programming to have these critical conversations. We support students in their endeavors to voice their concerns. And, rather than remaining silent and stifling student protest and engagement, it is imperative that the leadership of the University encourages critical dialogue and action until people of all races feel safe when walking the streets of our country. BC needs to be on the right side of history—the side of social justice.
The BC Sociology Department
C. Shawn McGuffey
Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor