April 15, 2016
On April 14th, 2016 a class on Black Visual Culture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was interrupted by University police. UW-Madison police targeted a Black male student in the class for arrest, accusing him of vandalizing buildings on campus. The graffiti in question calls out the pervasive racism of the institution and police violence that so many students and faculty face on campus. The student, who cooperated with police by voluntarily leaving the class was arrested, taken to jail, and was later released on bail.
Universities have long been dangerous places for students of color. And university police are part of a long history of state violence. With the root of policing in slave patrols and the present statistics that place Native and Black people as the populations most subjected to police violence and murder, this targeting of a Black student for imprisonment for objecting to racialized police and institutional violence at his home institution is part of a thorough history of silencing those most affected by racism by subjecting them to further racial violence.
Let us be clear, this action by UW-Madison police is an act of racial terror. At a moment when Black lives are cut short by police, incarcerated, charged with felonies for minor infractions, and thus deprived of basic civil rights like the ability to vote, targeting a Black student for arrest for protesting anti-Black racism is a politically calculated move. It is an attempt to silence anti-racist organizing and render Black lives, yet again, systematically incarcerable and disposable.
As a coalition of activists comprised of community and campus groups, The Red Nation, and University of New Mexico’s Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán, Black Student Union, Red Student Faction, and Out Queer Grads stand with UW-students, faculty, and their allies in refusing to be silent about the growing police, vigilante, and institutional violence UW Madison’s community has faced and continues to struggle against. We recognize that anti-Indian and anti-Black institutional cultures are linked. The genocide of Native people, the theft of their land, and the extraction of their resources worked through and along side the enslavement of African peoples, the destruction and impoverishment of their communities, and the ongoing murders of Black people in the service of a white supremacist, racial capitalist, settler colonialist system that continues to render so many of us disposable and imprisonable. Native and Black people share a history of being subjected to state sponsored racial terror as the targets of police/prison violence. We also share a present. We share a vision of a more racially just future.
Your objections to institutional racism literally written on the walls of the institution are being heard around the world. Indeed, “White Supremacy is a disease.”
Collectively we stand beside you—fists in the air.