Campaigns

Demands for an Anti-Racist Cornell

More than 700 people connected with Cornell have already co-signed a letter that demands anti-racist change from the administration. The letter points out a central tension in the way the university operates. On one hand, the letter identifies the ways that Cornell is complicit in perpetuating structural racism and white supremacy. And on the other, it invokes Cornell’s history of activism, liberal self-image, and stated focus on justice–including its egalitarian founding motto about “…any person …any study.”

This contradiction underscores the fact that Cornell is not doing enough to work toward meaningful change both on and off campus. As the letter says, “diversity” initiatives are commonplace at Cornell—but they fall miles short of the uncomfortable, structural change that is necessary to dismantle the academic systems that have built up over centuries to favor privileged, white people and systematically disadvantage Black people, indigenous people, and other people of color.

The letter distills the message into demands: 10 “immediate” demands, including changes to hiring and grad student recruitment, and 29 “long-term” demands, including eliminating the GRE requirement for graduate programs and ensuring pay equality for BIPOC faculty. One long-term demand, to name a building after alumna Toni Morrison, will be fulfilled next year when new residential halls open. The demands are detailed but represent only the beginning of a major realignment that Cornell needs to put its stated commitment to racial justice into actual practice.

You can sign the letter now to convey your support for the demands, especially if you have some connection to Cornell.

Sign Demand Letter & Join Campaign to Defund Ithaca Police

TC SURJ is working with the Tompkins Antiracist Coalition to drastically shrink the budget of the Ithaca Police Department and use local public funds to invest in true safety and community needs. As first steps, our multiracial coalition is gathering signatures for a demand letter and launching a popular education and agitation campaign. We invite you to sign our letter (a place to sign is linked in the demand letter above) and encourage other members of our community to sign, too.

Below the letter is the list of our specific demands.  For more information about the demands, see this FAQ sheet.

Letter: bit.ly/2DLWLtQ

Sign on form: bit.ly/3kCf45y

Please add your name today! If you are part of an organization that wants to be a part of the coalition and help strategize moving forward, or have questions/comments, reach out at tompkinscoalition@gmail.com.

Unpacking Thanksgiving

For a portion of November’s SURJ Chapter Meeting, two members hosted an educational session on the history of land and native people in relation to Thanksgiving and navigating conversations around the holidays. Below are some resources.

Article on the holiday itself: Thanksgiving: A Native American View, by Jacqueline Keeler

On having a dialogue in a way to foster continuing conversations: Talking Across the Political Divide: Skills for Difficult Personal Conversations, by Better Angels

Printable resources from national SURJ including the placemat (scroll a little):
www.showingupforracialjustice.org/thanksgiving

Also, here are some notes from our conversations during the chapter meeting about what barriers/resources came up when thinking about how we as individuals understand Thanksgiving and what might come up in thoughts about having courageous conversations with the people who we may be gathering with for the holiday:
  • The book titles mentioned were Bury My Heart at Wounded KneeAn Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United StatesCuster Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto
  • Consider the balance in maintaining relationships without avoiding breaking white silence
  • Share articles Before you’re at the dinner table which gives folks time to read digest and have background ahead of time
  • Connect to different backgrounds/frameworks, being sensitive that those backgrounds may not include the nuanced definitions that accompany the jargon of social justice
  • Incorporate honoring native people/creating new traditions in prayers said at the table
  • Initiate dialogue with “I learned something this week…”