GTFF for Black Lives

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The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (AFT Local 3544) reiterates our condemnation of the police murders of Black people and the violent repression of protests by police around the U.S.

We are deeply saddened, disgusted, and enraged by yet another police murder of a young Black man: 18-year-old Deon Kay of Southeast, DC. On August 31st, Dijon Kizzee (29) was murdered by police in Los Angeles, California. The brutal shooting of Jacob Blake of Kenosha, Wisconsin took place less than ten days ago on August 23. The continued brutal murder of Black people in the U.S. reveals the lack of basic protection for Black lives in the U.S. as they are subjected to systemic and interpersonal racism and racist police brutality.

It has been less than three months since George Floyd was murdered by police, and nationwide protests to call out systemic anti-Black racism, demand justice for Black lives, and call for the defunding/reforming of law enforcement continue to be met by police violence and the arrest of protesters without probable cause. In our own state of Oregon, we have witnessed the deployment of federal troops in Portland and the subsequent announcement of Portland protests to be riots. These attempts to suppress legal protests and portray the victims of the situation as the perpetrators of violence serve to unjustly silence and vilify the Black Lives Matter movement.

The grievous injuring and murder of Black people is a continuation of the racial subjugation and exploitation and colonial genocide that this country was built upon. This legacy lives on in the current administration’s tacit endorsement of white supremacy and the use of white supremacist systems to protect murderers. Breonna Taylor was murdered by police in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13, and the officers responsible have not been arrested. David McAtee was murdered by Louisville police forces on June 1 during a protest demanding justice for Breonna Taylor. On August 23, Jacob Blake was brutally shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by white supremacists in February. Police-admiring, fascist teenager Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed protestors in Kenosha on September 1, yet the nation’s white supremacist structures protect him from homicide charges.

Anti-Black racism is rooted in a history of slavery, an era of antebellum inhumanities, and the ugliness of post-Civil War segregation through the Jim Crow Laws and other federal and state-sanctioned acts of legitimized systemic racism. While these official names for racial exploitation and discrimination have faded away, systemic racism and white supremacy remain. The police are both a product and vehicle of perpetuation of this anti-Black system, authorized to kill the people that this system has taught and encouraged them to hate. Granted disproportionate access to resources and power, they are able to get away with the continued murder of Black people in broad daylight and in cold blood. This must end. This nation’s relationship with its Black population must change on a structural, infrastructural, systemic, professional, pedagogical, personal, and emotional level.

The Black Lives Matter movement started as an official organization in 2013, and seven years later, Black people continue to be murdered by police. Those attempting to protest these brutal murders face the threat of violent beatings, the use of chemical weapons, arrest, and death. We condemn the system that perpetuates this violence and anti-Black racism. We stand with our Black comrades. We demand justice. We demand abolition of the police.

It is of the utmost importance to also acknowledge and combat the ways in which the Labor Movement in the U.S. has further marginalized and disenfranchised BIPOC communities, and the ways in which the GTFF as an institution structurally reflects this. The GTFF exists within an intersection of higher education and labor organizing, both of which are institutions that have historically functioned to invisibilize and devalue the labor of their BIPOC members. It is our duty to our BIPOC members, to the University of Oregon community, and to the larger Eugene community to reckon with these histories and actively work to dismantle both micro and macro levels of anti-Black racism within our union.

Black Lives Matter. Black Students Matter. Black Graduates Matter. Black Instructors Matter. Black Professors Matter. Black Administrators Matter. Black Leaders Matter. Black Staff Matter. Black Intellects Matter. Black Artists Matter. Black Colleagues Matter. Black Friends Matter. Black Partners Matter. Black Parents Matter. Black Children Matter. Black Representations Matter. Black Union Members Matter. Black Communities Matter. Black Protests Matter. Black Movements Matter. Black Solidarity Matters. Black USA Matters.