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RSA Board of Directors’ Statement Condemning Anti-Black Violence

RSA Board of Directors’ Statement Condemning Anti-Black Violence

We begin this statement by saying their names: Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and George Floyd. These four people are recent victims of violent deaths at the hands of current or former police officers in Louisville, KY; Brunswick, GA; Tallahassee, FL; and Minneapolis, MN. This police violence has sparked massive protests, nationally and globally, and the cry “no justice, no peace” can be heard across the United States.

“No justice, no peace” is an expression with deep roots in the rhetoric of the abolitionist movement, the anti-lynching movement, the civil rights movement, and the Black power movement. It is an example of confrontational rhetoric, a conditional statement that agitation will continue until there is justice for Black victims. “No justice, no peace” is also a social and political critique that when some members of a society neither receive nor expect justice, peace and tranquility are illusions.

We acknowledge and condemn the murder of Black people. We also express our solidarity with and support for the Black scholars in our community and all people who experience systemic violence. The uprisings happening in this country and the world are not caused by isolated instances of brutality but by hundreds of years of structural oppression and dehumanizing rhetorics that target Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples. To recognize that this moment is not extraordinary is of utmost importance. That national leaders express racist sentiments of the past in the context of these unfolding protests shows how white supremacy continues to shape our policies and to normalize violence. We collectively oppose the habits of willful ignorance and disregard that accompany that violent history.

We affirm the capacity of rhetoric to improve our conditions: to expand our abilities to empathize, to mobilize demands for justice, and to disclose more ethical worlds made by words. Justice demands a recognition that anti-Blackness is embedded in the infrastructures of the United States and sustained in everyday and institutional rhetorics. Civic belonging is strongly conflated with whiteness--diminishing the prospects of a richer, more just, and more democratic nation. Yet, racial justice is attainable through rhetoric that is attentive to racialization and marginalization.

The Board of Directors of the Rhetoric Society of America stands against anti-Black violence in our own Society, in institutions of learning, and in the broader public. We specifically affirm our Black colleagues and students in the face of racism. We recognize the potential for multiracial coalitions in this moment, that by resisting fascism, building mutual aid networks, and cultivating communities of care, we can transform the world in which we live. We commit to centering Black voices in our ongoing efforts to address racial justice in our organization, our professional networks, our communities, and beyond. The Board of Directors commits to building an inclusive and equitable Society that works toward racial justice.

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