University of Michigan and its Press stand against “the appalling pestilence of racism”

by Charles Watkinson on June 8, 2020

On June 8, workers in publishing and media committed to collective action to protest the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and the many other Black lives lost to racist violence in America. The University of Michigan Press stands with its parent University, the Library of which it is part, and the community of other university presses.

“The persistent and appalling pestilence of racism continues to take lives in our nation’s communities, and far too many of our colleagues, classmates, friends and loved ones do not and cannot feel safe . . . .  The effects of the evil of racism are universal. We cannot ignore this reality. Though we experience and live with the pain of these tragedies differently, we all have a responsibility to advance justice, equality, peace and understanding. Our university community will never fully thrive without a constant shared commitment to these, our highest values. We must make this commitment together, not only as humans, but also as members of a society that has devalued and perpetuated violence against African Americans for more than 400 years.” Read the full statement by Mark Schlissel, President, University of Michigan here.

“The relentless pain, suffering, and injustice that this systemic racism inflicts upon the Black community, and the damage it causes, is evident and ongoing. We must work for change, and we must shift the burden of this work away from the people being harmed. At the University of Michigan Library, we’re focusing on both new and longstanding efforts to combat racism and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Read the full statement by James Hilton, Dean of Libraries here.

“Through the work that we publish, university presses have helped to document the histories of institutions in the United States and elsewhere. This scholarship shows that most colleges and universities were built through the exploitation of people of color and established as white and male‑only institutions, on land from which indigenous peoples were and continue to be displaced. The racist and exploitative practices that shaped this history remain embedded, even within institutions that work to study and critique that history. Currently, within universities and presses, systems that perpetuate bias, inequalities, and white supremacy go unquestioned and unchecked; in this way, they are perpetuated. University presses function at the leading edge of knowledge production around the world. As such, we have a vital responsibility to implement anti‑racist and anti‑colonialist practices in our curatorial, marketing, and business activities, including the hiring, retention, and promotion of staff.” Read the full statement by the Board of Directors of the Association of University Presses here.

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