Institutions of power in this country have condoned the deaths of far too many people for far too long, at the hands of systemic violence and inaction.
We are deeply troubled and angered by the School’s silence regarding the ongoing practices of racial injustice and police brutality, particularly in the context of Princeton’s preservation of Woodrow Wilson’s legacy. We are compelled to write at this moment not only because of the recent protests nationwide, which represent only the most recent expressions of institutional violence against Black, brown, and indigenous communities in the United States, but also because of Princeton’s culpability in histories of slavery and oppression.
We speak with one voice when we say: the time for change is now.
PREVIOUS ACTIONS ON CAMPUS
The Black Justice League (BJL) called for anti-racist action in 2016:
Black Justice League
Black Justice League
“We have gathered here today to outline our demands for this administration so that it may be held accountable in improving the social and academic experiences of its Black students at Princeton.” ***
They demanded (1) the removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name and iconography on campus, (2) cultural competency training for all faculty and staff, and (3) a cultural space on campus dedicated specifically to Black students.
See more through the comprehensive archival work of Jarrett M. Drake.
After the Black Justice League’s 2015-16 protests, several protest committees formed to shape the visual and linguistic renderings of Wilson’s legacy in a commissioned sculpture by artist Walter Hood. Upon the unveiling of the marker, students spoke out against “yet another memorialization of a white supremacist associated with our campus.” ***
“The monument’s title — “Double Sights” — is a nod to double consciousness, which sociologist W.E.B. DuBois coined to describe the peculiar experience of black Americans never embodying both their “blackness” and “Americanness” simultaneously. Double consciousness is not the same thing as reckoning with the good and the bad contained within a single person; it is not about manufacturing complexity for a person upholding the racist conditions that DuBois was responding to. // In no uncertain terms, by continuing to “complicate” the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, the University reinforces its own unwillingness to outrightly challenge racism.” ***
Princeton Private Prison Divest
In the fall of 2016, Princeton Private Prison Divest (PPPD), a a coalition consisting of Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR), the DREAM Team, the Muslim Advocates for Social Justice and Individual Dignity (MASJID), the Alliance for Jewish Progressives (AJP), the Black Justice League (BJL), the Princeton University Latinx Perspectives Organization (PULPO), and the Princeton College Democrats, brought their concerns to the Resources Committee regarding private prison divestment:
Their proposal detailed how,
“Princeton University has clear reasons to move forward with divesting and disassociating from corporations that draw profit from incarceration, drug control, and immigrant deportation policies, based on demonstrated 1) campus consensus for divestment, 2) sustained campus engagement with issues of mass incarceration and immigrant detention, and 3) a clear conflict between the actions of such corporations and our University values.” ***
This proposal garnered support from 174 professors, about 16% of the university’s teaching staff.
Ban the Box Campaign
“Ban the Box” is Students for Prison Education And Reform (SPEAR)’s longstanding campaign to remove the “prior conviction history” question on Princeton University’s applications. As SPEAR argues,
“The question regarding conviction history collects flawed information produced by a discriminatory system. By asking about past convictions, Princeton is not asking who has committed a crime, but rather who has been arrested and punished for these crimes by a demonstrably inequitable justice system. Thus, this information is not an unbiased indicator of culpability or character.” ***
We stand in solidarity with SPEAR’s anti-racist work to remove history of incarceration as a barrier for entry to the University.