In solidarity with Black Lives Matter: Where the Record, and the College, have faltered, and necessary next steps

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Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Tony McDade. Ahmaud Arbery. Tamir Rice. Oscar Grant. These are the names of only a few of the Black people who have become victims of state-sanctioned police brutality. The deaths of these people are directly tied to the anti-Black violence that first brought enslaved people to Jamestown in 1619, and that has permeated this country ever since. This violence  — a system directly enabled by white supremacy  —  is embedded in our nation’s institutional structures through mass incarceration, hyper-surveillance of Black bodies, economic inequities and inequitable distribution of wealth. 

The protests, frustrations and multitude of emotions stemming out of Minneapolis and spreading across the world come out of anger toward America’s structural failure to enact equality and justice for Black people since its inception. Knowing this, the Record board stands with the Black Lives Matter movement and all those fighting against anti-Blackness. 

Responding to this movement requires simultaneous inward and outward-facing calls for action. In responding with the rest of the Williams community, the Record board has compiled a list of grassroots organizations, petitions and other action items, and educational resources. We also published a list of educational resources recommended by our staff and faculty. We urge our readers — and have begun ourselves — to engage with and circulate the concrete action steps and educational resources listed, as well as donate if possible.

It is also important for us to use this platform to directly speak to College administration and alumni. 

  • To President Maud S. Mandel: Rather than a lone verbal condemnation of racism and mere encouragement for academic discussions on race, we urge you to materially act on the calls students have already made for you to meaningfully engage with the BLM movement. One of the most concrete steps the president can take is acting on students and alums’ demands for the College to make a monetary donation funneled from its wealth of economic resources. 
  • To the College’s senior administration and trustees: We echo the calls of our fellow students to use the College’s wealth to support Black communities. We have seen the College’s post about conversations with local organizations and expect to hear follow-ups about donations that address the student concerns. We also ask that the College allow for student groups –– namely, registered student organizations –– with unused funds from the shortened semester who wish to do so to be able to donate to those funds as well.
  • To our many alums: We urge you to make use of your resources and social and political capital to invest in and support Black communities in the Berkshires and across the U.S. With many students donating their own money, we hope that alumni with even more means support the organizing and fundraising efforts of current students and work towards change against anti-Blackness in their own workplaces.

These calls come as we move to take necessary internal reflections on the Record’s own positionality on race. Our initial reaction as a newspaper was to seek out and amplify the voices of others before expressing our own view. Thus, last week, the Record put out a call for reflection pieces on social media and asked faculty and staff to share resources on the history of anti-Black racism in the United States and ways to combat it in light of recent protests against police brutality. At the same time, we hesitated to look inward at who we are as a board. We recognize now, in a national uproar that is so painful to so many members of our community, particularly Black students, faculty and staff, that we should have used our platform to speak out against injustice just as quickly as we sought out the perspectives of others. For any member of our community to trust us with editing and publishing their work, we should have said it then: Black Lives Matter.

We have begun a period of deep reflection as a group to understand what went into our initial decisions and actions in the past week.

More than a year has passed since our April 2019 editorial “We must do better,” in which we acknowledged the Record’s passivity in responding to racism on campus and our historical role in upholding the status quo, particularly in not properly reporting on the concerns of marginalized groups. We hope that in our reporting over the past year, readers have noticed coverage that has striven towards this goal. But we want to acknowledge the ways in which we’ve fallen short — otherwise, doing “better” would become a meaningless commitment and not the unending process it has to be. We have not fully lived up to the promises made in that editorial, and we are reflecting on the Record board’s structure, positionalities, actions, culture and past reporting on the issues of race and beyond. Key to these discussions have been understanding our position within the College community, perceptions tied to our organization and how these perceptions damage the sense of trust in both our journalistic subjects and the broader community we aim to serve. 

We need to keep ourselves accountable to these words. In the coming months, we will consider how our long-held approach to hiring and recruitment has failed to build an inclusive and diverse board and has resulted in the underrepresentation of Black students in particular. We will work to regain the trust of student groups representing minoritized communities and student activists and organizers who have long felt, rightfully, that they cannot trust us to represent stories involving their communities faithfully and fairly. We will conduct an internal audit with the goal of working towards our becoming a more representative and equitable paper.

We look forward to continued and regular internal discussions and will be publishing another editorial that includes key points from our reflections and a renewed commitment to racial justice, and outlines the specific actions we will take in order to fully live up to this commitment.

We recognize that this work is never over. This piece, or our upcoming editorial, or the one we wrote last year, or donations or our internal conversations are not and will never be enough. We commit to working more and more towards becoming a publication that amplifies the voices of marginalized and particularly Black members of our community. We expect to hold each other accountable to continuing this work and invite our readership to do so as well, with the hope that ultimately our actions will speak louder than our words. 

The editorial represents the opinion of the majority of the Record’s editorial board.