NCA Inside & Out

BLM

Black Lives Matters Statements

July 8, 2020

NCA Diversity Council - NCA Diversity Council’s Antiracist Call to Sustained Action

Dear National Communication Association Colleagues, 

Recently, the Black community specifically and people of color generally have encountered literally hundreds of statements – from organizations, institutions, departments, corporations, etc. These statements are laden with assertions of struggle, justice, allyship, and solidarity; some even name White privilege and White Supremacy as problems that the U.S. and global society must reckon with. 

The language is admirable; however, trajectories for accountability and action are largely and shamefully absent. So, this outpouring of statements partakes in what has become our normative societal cycle that unfolds like this—police brutality, Black death, public outrage against anti-Black racism that causes Black death, societal exhaustion, followed by a return to White normativity—only to be repeated again…and again…and again as the list of names of Black people who have died as a result of police brutality gets longer…and longer…and longer. 

Statements against racism and White supremacy constitute first steps only when they are followed by additional steps. In and of themselves—perfunctory, normative statements tend to do nothing at all or very little to actually improve the everyday lives of people of color with regard to individuals, intersectional identity groups, and/or communities. As such, most statements are brimming with unfounded hope, already broken promises, and soon-to-be empty rhetorical signifiers. 

Moreover, despite good intentions, such statements oftentimes wallow in Black suffering with an un/stated commitment to remembering how a Black victim of racial hate crime died rather than how the person who lost their life lived. For instance, Mr. George Floyd is currently more recognizable as a Black man murdered via police brutality over a $20 bill presumed to be fraudulent than being recognizable for the life he lived before, now former, officers Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao chose to take part in his murder. 

To be clear—the assertion of “Black Lives Matter” is about far more than just Black disposability and death; to reduce “Black Lives Matter” to Black disposability and death is to partake in the objectification and essentialism that has sustained White supremacy for centuries. Equally injurious are the many scholars in our field and members of our association who participate in objectification and essentialism by acknowledging and even researching Black suffering and Black death without acknowledging Black life in myriad contexts ranging from classrooms to faculty meetings to search committees to citational practices. 

In place of issuing hurried statements, NCA’s Diversity Council is calling for strategic articulations of concrete action steps designed to incite measurable systemic change in our discipline. Coupled with concrete action steps, we are calling for articulations of accountability and culpability if said actions are not completed on a specified timeline. As a council, for example, we are less interested in hearing our colleagues and myriad NCA constituencies (re)commit to White self-reflexivity and/or social justice yet more interested in how strategic action will amount to anti-racist praxis thereby rendering our discipline more humanizing and inclusive for people of color and less susceptible to White supremacy. What we are asking for in place of an outpouring of statements will admittedly take a great deal of energy and time when many are pressed for both. However, concretized action, accountability, culpability, and specified timelines for change and transformation are absolutely essential to building a robust infrastructure that will long outlast whomever is currently serving in leadership positions. 

As you think through what we are asking NCA’s caucuses, divisions, units, leadership, etc. to publicly do in place of or perhaps alongside statements, please consider the following questions: 

Did your respective unit issue a statement in response to the Distinguished Scholars Award controversy? If so, how has that statement resulted in anti-racist actions that have materially improved conditions for NCA members of color? If the statement has not resulted in anti-racist actions that have materially improved conditions for NCA members of color, how and why did the statement fall short of follow through and action? 

What does your respective unit need to start doing? What does your respective unit need to stop doing? What happens if your respective unit does not start or stop? 

How do people privileged by Whiteness need to step up? How do people privileged by Whiteness need to step aside? How will your respective unit respond when people privileged by Whiteness do not step up and/or aside? 

What are the specific racialized equity challenges that your respective unit faces? Why hasn’t each specific racialized equity challenge been addressed already? What steps will your respective unit take to address and resolve each specific racialized equity challenge? 

Which policies and practices anchored in White normativity need to change? What steps will your respective unit take to make these changes and build durable infrastructure that resists White normativity? What will happen in your respective unit if White normativity remains its guiding paradigm? 

To be clear, we are not asking you to report back to the Diversity Council in any way. Rather, we are trying to shape the kinds of discourses and efforts that emerge in our discipline in response to our current cultural landscape. 

Of the utmost importance to note is that the work we are asking NCA’s constituencies to do should not be only predicated upon or limited to the Black community or the Black/White binary that has governed race matters for too long. At times Blackness needs to be unapologetically centered; yet our approaches must also unapologetically attend to racial and ethnic diversity. Take for instance the egregious ways that those who identify as Chinese and those assumed to be Chinese have been impacted by President Trump and his Administration’s racist and xenophobic use of “Chinese virus” in place of coronavirus. Likewise, the coronavirus will continue to have devastating consequences for immigrants, those imprisoned, and working-class essential workers which are 3 of the many systemically disadvantaged groups that multiple communities of color are disproportionately represented within. 

Our hope is that you can really hear our request to shift from statements to articulations of specific actions—namely assessment, praxis, and accountability. We are making this request because the Diversity Council is not clear on what (re)commitments to struggle against racism in its myriad forms actually do for people of color. Like many other organizations and institutions, NCA has been “committed” to this for years and yet we are of the world we live in—and here we are. 

Always feel welcome to connect if the Diversity Council can be of service in your vital efforts to prioritize inclusion, diversity, equity, and access in its myriad forms. 

Sincerely, 

Rachel Alicia Griffin, Chair 
Elizabeth Parks, Asian/Pacific American Caucus 
Kami Anderson, Black Caucus 
Deryl Johnson, Caucus on LGBTQ Concerns 
Jim Cherney, Disability Issues Caucus 
Michael Lechuga, La Raza Caucus 
Ashley Mack, Women’s Caucus


NCA Environmental Communication Division - Anti-Racism Statement from the officers of NCA’s Environmental Communication Division

In response to historic and ongoing systemic institutional violence against communities of color and particularly African American and Black communities in the US--most recently brought to international attention by the recent slaying of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, among others--the officers of the National Communication Association Environmental Communication Division voice our commitment to anti-racism.

Environmental Communication is grounded not only in a crisis discipline ethic to intervene in unsustainable ways of living, but also in an ethics of care, which is a duty to honor the myriad relations that constitute our interconnected and reciprocal relations. The scholars, teachers, and practitioners of our field embody a tradition of critiquing structural inequity and engaging the complicated intersections of environmental degradation and oppression. Practicing the dual ethics of our field requires that we address the systemic racism that perpetuates and exacerbates poverty, food insecurity, health disparities, labor and wage precarity, and many other forms of oppression, as well as uplift and highlight solutions to heal, grow, rectify, and resist.

We stand in solidarity with those who experience systemic violence. Our division is committed to amplifying scholars who are People of Color, people who are colonized, people living in the Global South, LGBTQI+ individuals, people with disabilities, religious groups, women, and those who intersect or represent other marginalized communities.

In our own division, we have been engaging in a conversation about the norms and violences of white supremacy since 2019. We dedicated our most recent business meeting to discussing barriers and solutions. In the months since, we have continued these conversations, reaffirming our commitment to diversity and inclusion by explicitly expanding the scope of our outreach committee, working towards new fundraising possibilities, and making our own awards process more transparent. We recommit to our 2019 pledge to build academic spaces and systems that are fair, equal, diverse, and inclusive for more just and sustainable organizations.

In making this public statement, we make ourselves accountable to everyone reading it. Please hold us accountable, suggest further actions, and join in this work with us.

In solidarity,

Dr. Kathleen P. Hunt, President
NCA ECD Executive Board


American Society for the History of Rhetoric - ASHR condemns anti-Black violence and makes a commitment

As the (U.S.) American Society for the History of Rhetoric, we have let “the history of rhetoric” guide our programmatic priorities since our foundation in 1977. The truth is, though, that such an emphasis is incomplete and even harmful when it ignores the American context in which we rhetoricians are educated, evaluated, and employed.

We unequivocally denounce the state-sponsored and state-excused murders of Black people in the United States, with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and David McAtee as recent victims among a tragically untold number in our country’s centuries-long and present-day history of anti-Black oppression. We affirm that, beyond individual racist actions, the systems that order American life are themselves racist and rooted in white supremacy. Such systems, which we condemn, exist not only within the academy writ large but also within the field of rhetorical studies broadly and the history of rhetoric more specifically. 

What sort of work, from which scholars, about which topics gets rewarded in the U.S. American academy? Who faces serious consequences for their work? Who does not enter or remain in academe because of its hostility to them and/or what they teach and study? Honestly asking those questions reveals that whiteness and White scholars are often promoted, rewarded, and advanced, while Black scholars, Black scholarship, Black rhetors, and Black rhetoricians are often marginalized, ignored, neglected, and tokenized. 

ASHR commits to centering and supporting scholars and scholarship that draw upon the history of rhetoric to call out anti-Black systems and structures (including within the study of the history of rhetoric itself) and trace their historical-rhetorical development and deployment, to enrich understanding of Black rhetorical traditions, or to otherwise bring Black perspectives to the field. In doing so, we follow the lead of scholars and scholarly groups who have been doing and promoting such work for decades, and at no little personal and professional risk.

In making this public statement, we make ourselves accountable to everyone reading it. Please hold us accountable.

ASHR Steering Committee


Association for the Rhetoric of Science, Technology, and Medicine - ARSTM Statement on Anti-Black Racism and the Murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and David McAtee and Others

The Association for the Rhetoric of Science, Technology, and Medicine unequivocally condemns the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, David McAtee, and the many more Black people killed by police, law enforcement, and vigilantes. Moreover, we condemn the racist state-sponsored violence against Black people in the United States and around the globe. We recognize that white supremacist violence, and more specifically anti-Black violence, is historically intertwined with U.S. institutions, policies, and culture, and that it is also acutely visible in individual instances of oppression. We support the recent statements made by the leadership of Rhetoric Society of America, National Communication Association, and the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing.

Science, technology, and medicine are intimately tethered to racist oppression and violence. From the colonial foundations of enlightenment science (Galleano, 1997) to the 18th century rewriting of Greek and Roman natural philosophy to erase contributions from Africa and Asia (Bernal, Black Athena), racism is deeply rooted in Western scientific enterprise so commonly referenced in ARSTM scholarship. From the “friction-free racism” enabled by surveillance capitalism (Gilliard, 2018) to the automation of anti-Blackness via discriminatory algorithms (Eubanks, 2017; Noble, 2018) to the use of genomics to reinscribe eugenicist and colonialist ideas (Ceccarelli, 2013; Happe, 2013), technology has long been a mechanism for building and expanding racist structures. From the eugenic sterilization boards of North Carolina (Schoen, 2001) to the “construction of Sickle Cell Anemia as a black disease” (Robvais, 2020) to the withholding of information and treatment from Black people in the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee University (Lynch, 2019), medical racism harms the health outcomes of Black people, regardless of socio-economic status (Geronimus et al, 2006; Squires, 2020; Davis, 2019; Hardeman et al, 2016; Yam, 2020).  

As rhetoricians of science, technology, and medicine, it is our ethical responsibility to acknowledge and reckon with the injustices central to the topics we study. And it is our responsibility to critique and resist the use of science, technology, and medicine as tools for the oppression of Black, Brown, and Indigenous People. We can and should use the rhetoric of science, technology, and medicine to call out and address institutional racism and to amplify and support those who are already doing that work, from #BlackInSTEM advocates to anti-surveillance community groups to reproductive justice activists and beyond. 

ARSTM is organizationally enmeshed in these systems and thus remains complicit, even while working to dismantle these often invisible structures that naturalize anti-Black oppression and violence. As Ibram X. Kendi writes, “there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist” (2019, p. 9). We commit to making anti-racist change within our own organization in specific material ways, which are detailed, along with next steps and specific deadlines in an action plan on our website (arstmonline.org). These actions are not an end point for ARSTM. Instead, they are a tangible starting point for collective deliberation, advocacy, and action.

To echo other leaders, thank you to those of you already doing anti-racist work, and to those who respond to this and other calls to action.

Black lives matter. 

Signed, 

Emily Winderman, ARSTM President
Lauren Cagle, ARSTM 1st Vice-President
Kenneth Walker, ARSTM 2nd Vice-President
Daniel Card, ARSTM Secretary
Danielle DeVasto, Social Media Officer
Jay Frank, Web Administrator
Molly Kessler, ARSTM Treasurer
S. Scott Graham, ARSTM Board Member
John A. Lynch, ARSTM Board Member
Zoltan P. Majdik, ARSTM Board Member
Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher, ARSTM Board Member
Lynda C. Olman, ARSTM Board Member
James Wynn, ARSTM Board Member
 
References

Bernal, M. (1987). Black Athena: The Afroasiatic roots of classical civilization; Volume 1, The fabrication of ancient Greece 1785-1985. Rutgers University Press.

Ceccarelli, L. (2013). On the frontier of science: An American rhetoric of exploration and exploitation. Michigan State University Press.

Davis, D. A. (2019). Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth (Vol. 7). NYU Press. 

Eubanks, V. (2017). Automating inequality: How high-tech tools profile, police, and punish the poor (First Edition). St. Martin’s Press.

Galleano, E. (1997). Open veins of Latin America: Five centuries of the pillage of a continent. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press.

Geronimus, A. T., Hicken, M., Keene, D., & Bound, J. (2006). “Weathering” and age patterns of allostatic load scores among blacks and whites in the United States. American journal of public health, 96(5), 826-833.

Gilliard, C. (2018, October 15). Friction-Free Racism. Real Life. https://reallifemag.com/friction-free-racism/ 

Happe, K.E. (2013). The material gene: Gender, race, and heredity after the human genome project. New York, NY: New York University Press. 

Hardeman, R. R., Medina, E. M., & Kozhimannil, K. B. (2016). Dismantling structural racism, supporting Black lives and achieving health equity: Our role. The New England journal of medicine, 375(22), 2113.

Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an antiracist (First Edition). One World.

Lynch, J. A. (2019). The Origins of Bioethics: Remembering When Medicine Went Wrong. MSU Press.

Noble, S. U. (2018). Algorithms of oppression: How search engines reinforce racism. New York University Press.

Roberts, D. (2012). Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century. New York, NY: The New Press.

Robvais, R. (2020). We are No Longer Invisible. Poroi, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.13008/2151-2957.1296

Schoen, J. (2001). Between choice and coercion: Women and the politics of sterilization in North Carolina, 1929-1975. Journal of Women’s History, 13(1), 132-156.

Squires, C. “Changing the Odds for Black Mothers,” Gender Policy Report (April 14, 2020), access: https://genderpolicyreport.umn.edu/changing-the-odds-for-black-mothers/  

Yam, Shui-yin Sharon. “Visualizing Birth Stories from the Margin: Toward a Reproductive Justice Model of Rhetorical Analysis.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 50, no. 1 (2020): 19-34.


Western States Communication Association - Statement in Opposition to Racist Violence

As officers of the Western States Communication Association (WSCA), we stand in outrage with the Black community and in witness to the murders of and attacks on African-American citizens.  Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd are notable, yet few, among the many deaths from overt racism in the United States, and we stand with individuals and organizations working to focus awareness on this fact and to elicit national change.

We condemn systemic efforts to centralize white experiences and obscure/delegitimize historic and ongoing racial discrimination, as well as the abuses of communication and power that uphold those systems.  We also recognize ourselves as an association that is situated within these systems, and commit ourselves to continued actions to move away from the status quo and to actualize social justice.
 
We reassert our Association resolutions and policies on anti-discrimination and diversity:

  • The Western States Communication Association is fully committed to principles of equal opportunity, freedom from harassment, and freedom from discrimination.
  • The WSCA opposes the abuse of communication in order to silence, coerce or exploit individuals or groups based on essentialized differences;
  • The WSCA opposes acts of violence against all individuals regardless of differences;
  • The WSCA opposes all that discriminates, prohibits, and/or restricts individuals’ expression and movements based on essentialized differences;
  • The WSCA emphasizes our belief in the power of communication to have transformative possibilities in social relations;
  • The WSCA endorses the use of public protests, advocacy, civil disobedience and/or other nonviolent means of expression as (counter)responses to acts of injustice;
  • The WSCA endeavors for social change and justice in its pursuits;
  • The WSCA supports communication scholars’ and practitioners’ exercise of academic freedom. 

We also commit to opening access to information to support social justice and anti-racist efforts. By end of day Friday, June 5th, and extending through the end of 2020, the following six articles published by the Western States Communication Association in our Western Journal of Communication and Communication Reports journals will be completely free for public access. We hope that people might read and share these select works, and use them as part of their efforts to inform, frame, and engage in the creation of systemic and individual anti-racist change.

Signed:

Marnel Niles-Goins, President
Christina Granato Yoshimura, President-Elect
Rodney Reynolds, Immediate Past President
Heather Canary, First Vice President
Sara Hayden, Executive Director-Select

Flores, L. A. (2020). Stoppage and the racialized rhetorics of mobility. Western Journal of Communication, 84(3), 247–263. https://doi-org.weblib.lib.umt.edu:2443/10.1080/10570314.2019.1676914
Free link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10570314.2019.1676914

Holling, M.A. (2018) Centralizing marginality, marginalizing the center in the WSCA 2018 presidential address. Western Journal of Communication, 82(5), 529-536. DOI: 10.1080/10570314.2018.1463450 
Free link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10570314.2018.1463450

Triece, M. E. (2018). Constructing the antiracial city: City planning and antiracialism in the 21st century. Western Journal of Communication, 82(5), 613–630. https://doi-org.weblib.lib.umt.edu:2443/10.1080/10570314.2017.1390148
Free link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10570314.2017.1390148

Gallant, L.M. & Krone, K.J. (2014) Tensions in talking diversity. Communication Reports, 27(1), 39-52. DOI: 10.1080/08934215.2013.837497 
Free link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08934215.2013.837497

Maurantonio, N. (2014) “That photo”: Journalism and bearing witness to history. Western Journal of Communication, 78(4), 500-521. DOI: 10.1080/10570314.2013.845687 
Free link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10570314.2013.845687

Richardson, B. K., & Taylor, J. (2009). Sexual harassment at the intersection of race and gender: A theoretical model of the sexual harassment experiences of women of color. Western Journal of Communication, 73(3), 248–272. DOI:10.1080/10570310903082065
Free link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10570310903082065