The Executive Council of United Academics condemns the use of blackface as inherently racist. We find such actions anathema to our aspirations for a just community at the University of Oregon. We furthermore believe all faculty, in our bargaining unit or not, are entitled to a fair hearing and hope that any actions – including any suspension from duties – in response to allegations of misconduct or unethical behavior will be undertaken according to established procedures of due process and, under our CBA, with just cause. We object to any administrative actions that violate these rights.
Like many, we do not have details or a full understanding of the recent incident, but regardless, the use of blackface evokes America’s racist history in a way that understandably offends and harms many in our community. When a white person puts on blackface, they invoke a history of brutality against black bodies as though the white person were putting on black skin for entertainment. The revulsion in this is found across a spectrum of racially discriminatory and violent actions, from the many racist media stereotypes of people of color to the horror of lynchings. For someone to evoke this history without being corrected by others is a collective harm that degrades all of us. Such actions damage the trust, respect, and safety we seek in a diverse community regardless of how they may have been intended.
Unfortunately, violation of our cherished values at the University of Oregon is not uncommon. We cannot pretend that putting on blackface, as shocking as it may be, is not connected to larger patterns of racism, hostility, and intimidation continually faced by students, faculty, and staff of color at the UO and in the broader community.
We face great challenges ahead in diversifying the campus and in overcoming our racist past and our racist present. We urge our administration to engage all members of our campus community in cultivating a path forward that does not compromise faculty rights to a fair investigation and due process. United Academics is ready to engage with these efforts to build a better, more just University of Oregon.
The Executive Council of United Academics