Confronting racism

June 2, 2020

During these painful and convulsive days, we at the Pembroke Center are grateful for our community, and we hold close the work and words of the many scholars, activists, and friends who are so integral to the Center and its mission. 

As we see news images of the response to the death of George Floyd and so many other people of color at the hands of law enforcement, we think of Kimberly Juanita Brown’s October 2019 lecture, in which she discussed how photography – especially news photography – featuring black subjects so often refuses black people the space not to be violated. David Scott, in February 2020, talked about the continual denial of the right of people of color to be individual and particular, and how the unrectified and morally irreparable history of slavery relates to an unfree present. In April, Joan Wallach Scott critiqued the conventional American writing of history, taking aim at the way historical narratives construct our social and political life. Fifty-two years ago, in May and June of 1968, Hortense J. Spillers wrote in her journals, which are now housed in the Pembroke Center Archives, about freedom seeking a broader base. “Mastery,” she wrote, “consists in commitment to something other than one’s own comfort and convenience.”

The Pembroke Center's students, faculty, staff, alumnae/i, colleagues, and friends engage seriously and rigorously with critical questions about difference, including but by no means limited to race, gender, and religion, and we are acutely aware of how, as President Paxson and senior University leaders wrote in their May 30 letter to the Brown community, “Structures of power, deep-rooted histories of oppression, as well as prejudice, outright bigotry and hate, directly and personally affect the lives of millions of people in this nation every minute and every hour.” Now, as our community is physically dispersed during a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting communities of color, we carry on our work, condemn and oppose white supremacy, and stand with all those working for justice and equity.