The horrific racist attack targeting black students at Penn reminds us that we are living in an age of demagoguery that is not soon to end. Penn’s response to this incident was swift. We commend all of those who worked to make that so, especially the President’s Office, the Vice Provost for University Life, the Office of Public Safety, other administrators and faculty.
We are most impressed by and proud of the black students at Penn and their supporters who have made plain their fears, their anger and their resolve to meet this and any attack with courage and unity.
We at Africana Studies stand in solidarity with the students affected by this particular attack. We reiterate our commitment to continue to provide a safe haven for students. We stand with all students who have suffered through this season of unrelenting and unrepentant venom directed at the communities we inhabit.
The imperfections and strengths of American democracy are many. The embrace of these repugnant ideas and increasingly violent acts by so many represents a clear, real, and present danger to students of color at Penn. These students also include disproportionate numbers of women students, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students, Muslim students, students from immigrant families or students who are themselves undocumented or have family members who are undocumented.
Now more than ever, the University of Pennsylvania bears a special responsibility to stand up for its values as an academic community dedicated to inclusion and democratic ideals. We in Africana Studies invite you to join us in collective actions to denounce and defy the bigotry and intolerance unleashed by the campaign and election of a man with strong connections to Penn.
Demagoguery rests on untruths, emotional appeals and ultimately, an anti-intellectualism that is contrary to the enterprise of an educational institution. Now is the time for all of us to stand for what is right and important: to protect, serve, teach and train our students for the duties and responsibilities of civil civic engagement, including their right to principled protest.
Barbara D. Savage is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and the Chair of the Department of Africana Studies.
Camille Z. Charles is the Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor in the Social Sciences, Professor of Sociology, Africana Studies & Education and the Director of the Center for Africana Studies