American Sociological Association

ASA Footnotes

A publication of the American Sociological AssociationASA News & Events
March/April 2016

ASA Forum

BlackLivesMatter: “Where Is the Outrage?”

The attention given to the current state of institutional racism across many of the nation’s college campuses is painful to read and hear. Yet, the silence of the masses of social science organizations that routinely shout for social justice, an end to institutional discrimination, and other social ills is screeching like nails across a chalkboard. Where is the outrage?

The protest, “BlackLivesMatter” is more than a cry from the countless mothers that have lost their children to violence at the hands of representatives of the state. The protest, “BlackLivesMatter” is bigger than the violence and brutality that has left a trail of scars on the black body. The students, faculty, staff, and other supporters from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic status, and geographic locations are letting the country know, “BlackLivesMatter” and the voices of the oppressed will not be silenced. The historical tactics of fear, intimidation, and threats will not work in 2016.

Scholars are asking social science organizations, “Where is the outrage?” Indeed, the appreciation of the support provided by many can’t be underestimated. The continued cries, “I’m sorry that this is happening to you,” and “I wish I could help” are helpful. However, in 2016, it’s not enough and in reality it never was. The power of educational institutions that proudly claim “social justice” and “diversity” while allowing practices and policies that injure the psychological well being of students and faculty of color is disheartening and disingenuous. In concert with these “social justice flag waving institutions of higher education” are the numerous social science organizations that are funded by faculty and students of all classes, races, and ethnicities. These same social science organizations raise money and protest feverishly about human rights violations in other parts of the world, and yet they are painfully and virtually silent about the violations of rights in their own backyards. The faithful members of these organizations display their institutional affiliations proudly at annual meetings and conferences, which raises the question, “Where is the outrage?”

The members of social science organizations who are from a diverse population working at predominately white institutions are often faced with unfavorable judgments of their intellect, authenticity, and credentials—on a daily basis—from well-meaning students, colleagues, and administration.

The contemporary research of the struggles these faculty and student organization members face to maintain their careers, livelihood, and wellbeing remains unaddressed in a ‘meaningful way’ by the social science organizations that these members have supported and continue to support. The outcry of demands on college campuses, by students, faculty, and supporters are a powerful symbol that “BlackLivesMatter” and the waving of a flag of diversity is not inclusion. To the supporters of social science organizations, institutions of higher learning, and the faculty who stroll comfortably across the campus without worry of questioning or surveillance warrant a response, I ask “Where is the outrage?”

The supporters of “BlackLivesMatter” protestors need to know that that they are “heard” by the social science organizations, which they have supported for years. The focus on “the new face of social movements” at several conferences this year is a reminder that talking and activism are not synonymous. The protestors at institutors of higher education and loyal supporters of the social science organizations need to ‘hear’ the voices of the organizations that they have historically supported. The question, “Where is the outrage?” and “Where is your voice?” demands a 2016 response that is louder than the protestors on college campuses who are fighting institutional discrimination, which has so long been shrouded in a sheet of “institutional policies and practices.” Silence was not an option in the 1960s and shouldn’t be an option in 2016.

Ruth Thompson-Miller, University of Dayton

A shorter version of this article appeared as a “Letter” to the Chronicle of Higher Education.