"When we revolt it's not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe." This poignant sentiment could have been lifted from any of the recent news coverage following the death of George Floyd. However, these words are 59 years old, published in Les Damnés de la Terre (The Wretched of the Earth), a 1961 book by the psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, one of the seminal texts in Columbia's Core Curriculum.
Echoing the sentiments of President Bollinger, in his letter to the Columbia University community last week, we did not think it was possible to forget we are in the midst of a historic pandemic. But since the 25th of May, our attention has been on the global reaction to racism and police violence right now. The world is watching.
In its 266-year history, Columbia University has been central to change in New York City, the United States, and the world. From its early beginnings, and the charged political climate of the American Revolution, a young undergraduate, Alexander Hamilton, helped create a new nation. Almost two centuries later, the landmark protests of 1968, recognized more widely for their focus on the Vietnam War, erupted on campus in response to the segregated gymnasium to be constructed in the nearby Morningside Park. These protests affected change to improve the relationship between Columbia and the Harlem community, established the university senate, and changed the curriculum to include black studies courses.
As part of that enduring legacy, we’ve again asked how we can help now to end racial injustice. We need to look for a better way—one that improves outcomes for everyone who is suffering. Speak up. Protest peacefully. Support the community. Donate where help is needed.
We have created a page on our website with charities and collectives who are helping support racial equality. We are not endorsing a single foundation or organization, but want to offer a selection for you to see and help where you feel you can make a difference.
In closing, last Wednesday in a virtual town hall, Former President Barack Obama CC'83 addressed the nation: "In some ways, as tragic as these past few weeks have been, as difficult and scary and uncertain as they’ve been, they’ve also been an incredible opportunity for people to be awakened to some of these underlying trends [of America’s systemic racism]. They offer an opportunity for us to all work together to tackle them, to take them on, to change America and make it live up to its highest ideals."
Whatever we can all do to help make lasting changes.
We support you.
Black lives matter.
Courtney & Stephen