The SFU School of Communication’s Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter and Commitments to Anti-Racist Action

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The School of Communication at Simon Fraser University, with the support of the School’s Graduate Caucus, stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and anti-racist movements in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere in the world that have arisen in condemnation of the recent murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmauid Arbery, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks. In recent months we have also seen the rise of anti-Asian violence in the context of COVID-19. These crises are taking place as Black and Indigenous people in Canada continue to be killed in circumstances involving the police: the growing list includes D’Andre Campbell, Eishia Hudson, Jason Collins, Stewart Kevin Andrews, Everett Patrick, Regis-Korchinki-Paquet, Chantel Moore, and Rodney Levi. We are outraged at these violations of their humanity and human rights, and we stand in support of their families, loved ones, and communities.

We acknowledge that the violence against Black women, men, children, and LGBTQ+ people is rooted in global systems of white privilege, which is premised on genocidal colonial violence and dispossession. We recognize that our actions to stop the violence against Black communities must be allied with efforts against racist conditions that threaten the lives, prosperity, and dignity of all Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC). As a School, we are committed to working in alliance with Black Lives Matter, Indigenous Nations, Asian Canadians, Muslim Canadians and other groups organizing against racist policies and practices while supporting their intersectional movements for freedom, liberation, and justice. 

The recent anti-Black anti-Asian, and anti-Indigenous violence has opened up difficult, necessary and urgent conversations about how to challenge and dismantle systemic racism. We recognize the faculty and students within the School who have undertaken anti-racist and decolonial work, though as a School we must also acknowledge our failures to meaningfully dismantle institutional racism and provide necessary resources for BIPOC faculty, staff, and students to flourish. At SFU, we benefit every day from being on unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Kwikwetlem (kʷikʷəƛ̓əm), Katzie, Kwantlen, Qayqayt, Semiahmoo, Tsawwassen and numerous Stó:lō Nations.  We have a responsibility and obligation to address these colonial legacies and their contemporary manifestations of systemic racism and racist violence in our teaching, our research, and our administration.  

As communication and media scholars, we must interrogate our discipline’s complicities in the institutionalization of racism, discrimination, and colonialism. The dearth of research and instruction on these matters has impeded the university from meaningfully supporting decolonial, anti-racist, and anti-imperial initiatives. This is a result of the deplorable underrepresentation of BIPOC faculty and graduate students in communication and media departments across Canada, the UK, Europe, and the United States.  

At this historical juncture, our discipline must rectify these discriminatory practices and structural inequalities in our institutions. Communication infrastructures, processes, and practices rely upon networks of exploitative and racialized labour that are global in scope. As a discipline, we must interrogate the material and bodily realities of producing communication technologies. This must address how racialized bodies are put to work in technological supply chains, and relegated to demeaning and stereotyped representations in the media. This must also include how these technologies are weaponized against BIPOC populations for surveillance, intimidation, and over-policing.

The School of Communication must work with SFU to create a comprehensive plan to redress these issues. As a School, we commit to the following actions as part of a long-term plan to be continually revisited and revised:  

  • In our governance, we commit to establishing a standing committee with expertise, experience, and alignment with BIPOC and intersectional issues to work with other School committees by advising on advancing policies, practices, and perspectives that reflect the politics of anti-racism and decolonization;
  • In our hiring, we will continue to actively recruit faculty members from historically underrepresented groups, and whose critical communication expertise aligns with anti-racist, anti-imperial, and Indigenous epistemologies;  
  • In our teaching—starting with our upcoming curriculum review—we will acknowledge and prioritize the scholarship, leadership, and cultural production of BIPOC throughout the School’s curriculum, practices, and policies;
  • In our graduate student admissions and funding, we commit to inclusive and anti-racist evaluation criteria that esteem forms of research that go beyond normative western assumptions and perspectives about what constitutes significant research and experience;
  • We commit to regular anti-racist and anti-bias training for faculty, staff, and graduate students;
  • In our public engagement, we commit to running new public events and lecture series focused on racism, colonialism, and white supremacy; including a panel that the School’s Digital Democracies Group has offered to organize on the topic of racism and Canadian media;
  • We will actively seek opportunities to collaborate with faculty, staff, students and BIPOC advocacy organizations across university operations, towards ameliorating precarious employment and unsafe working and learning conditions that disproportionately affect BIPOC.  

We encourage those who can to provide financial support by visiting the following websites: