Apart from observing the refined asphyxiation of Black scholars at URI, Professor Fosu observed that all Diversity Committees are overwhelmingly stacked with people who have little or no expertise in race/diversity policy or advocacy for African-Americans and Latinos, and are therefore ill-suited for service on these committees, becoming distractions from clear thinking and comprehensive planning towards racial equity. Despite ‘restructuring’ of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion function and public declarations that increasing diversity is a top priority, this lack of expertise results in the perpetuation of critical failures in diversity hiring and weak strategic planning. Even when the majority of diversity committee members have PhDs and other credentials – they have no relevant and specific experience addressing or confronting racist discriminatory practices and advocating for racial equity in the United States. If they did have diversity expertise, URI would not be among the most structurally racist universities in America today.
ANATOMY OF SYSTEMIC RACISM AT URI
Absence of Expertise on Diversity Committees
For example, during a general faculty meeting on April 30, 2020 (see Jen Riley email), Professor Fosu heard the College of Arts and Sciences Diversity Committee announce a proposal to explore “Diversity and Violence” because White professors had experienced threats. When asked, no one at the meeting could provide a specific example of the alleged threats. Fosu immediately spoke up to quash the inherently racist policy that was presented as a benign, thoughtful proposal by credible educated URI faculty. Fosu explained that whatever challenges a professor might have with a student or several students, should not result in a policy on “Diversity and Violence” to the detriment of African-Americans and Latinos—because it is in fact White students who are the most violent on American campuses. In the extreme hypothetical, if a professor were to be assaulted that would be an issue for law enforcement, not cause to create a racist policy stigmatizing students of color. As in the recent, highly publicized case of Amy Cooper, whom the public christened ‘Central Park Karen’, the use of weaponized white privilege and evocation of dog-whistle tropes of ‘threatening Black people’ had led to an actual proposal to protect “endangered” faculty. This was appalling to Fosu, because here we are in 2020, yet this was the same old modus operandi of racism carefully encased and swathed in the credibility of policy. This was similar to highly educated and credible Supreme Court justices who were permitted to present and maintain that racist policies, such as the Separate but Equal-Plessy doctrine was a ‘credible and just law’ because it served the racist structure of the nation and was unquestioned because it was established by an all-white bench of highly educated, credible, soft-spoken, Supreme Court justices.
Any expert on the 2019 Arts and Sciences Diversity Committee who has knowledge about historical and current discrimination against African-Americans, and a sensitivity and empathy for the souls of Black folk, would have immediately identified that the “Diversity and Violence” proposal articulated by URI’s College of Arts and Science Diversity Committee as an institutional and systemic racist assault on the dignity of Black and Latino students at URI who make up merely 6% and 10% of the students body respectively (Dr. Harry Alston). If implemented, such a “Diversity and Violence” proposal would have been sufficient for students to establish an immediate prima facie case of discrimination under the Civil Rights Act.
The aforementioned example is a manifestation of the intricate procedures of systemic racism within a structurally racist Institution, and unfortunately there were no experts or conscientious African-American and Latino voices in the room to speak up and say STOP and THINK because this is an immoral and untenable proposal?
Blocked from Diversity and Search Committees
Associate Dean Brian Krueger on the Diversity Committee spoke up at the April 30, 2020 meeting and immediately withdrew the “Diversity and Violence” policy proposal after Professor Fosu made his comments. Krueger explained that it was only an idea floated by committee members but had not been presented to the central URI administration. Disturbed by the thinking and thought processes expressed in the report presented by Diversity Committee members, Prof. Fosu once again, verbally petitioned Dean Riley, who was hosting the WebEx faculty meeting, informing her for the third time that he saw a clear need to be on the Diversity Committee.
But, once again Professor Fosu was politely blocked and informed by Dean Riley during the meeting that committee membership happens by vote [IN OTHER WORDS: ‘only when the white majority at URI accepts you, can you join a ‘Diversity Committee’ and ‘your high-level expertise in advocating for policy change in America and your specialized knowledge on race and diversity matters are irrelevant to us, the all-White leadership team at URI’]. So, for the third time Fosu was blocked and not provided an election date to join committees nor provided a nomination ballot to vote for himself or anyone else. Again, when emails for committees crossed his path on April 20, 2020, Professor Fosu sent a short email to Dean Riley’s Department Chair Marc Hutchinson, stating clearly that he wants to be on the Diversity Committee and waited for a response – but alas no response, no nomination ballot and no election date arrived [click for Marc email]. A trier of fact could reasonably conclude that URI is an institution, using convoluted rules and procedures that sustain a hegemonic class of White intellectuals who maintain structural racism while publicly paying lip service to diversity. Professor Lou Kwame Fosu believes that Deans and the leadership have colluded to block his membership on all diversity and search committees. Again, we see echoes of Jim Crow de facto racism preventing real change at URI. This is how the all-White leadership at URI and similar academic institutions hold on to power until they retire and are replaced by the same White tribe to support systemic racism for generations ad nauseam.
FBI: Objective Truth about Race and Violence in America
The fact of the matter is that White students (See table 5) and Whites in general are the most violent racial group as regards to rapes, aggravated assaults and overall total violent crimes in America. According to the FBI 2018 crime reports, under the category of Race and Ethnicity, it is Whites that commit the highest number crimes for rape—over 12,000; Whites commit the highest number crimes for aggravated & other assault—over 180,000; and Whites also commit the highest number of total violent crimes in America—over 230,000. Moreover, overall, the most violence manifested as mass murders in schools are committed by White males, not Blacks and not Latinos – so when a nativist racist policy is being proposed at URI called “Diversity and Violence”, the appropriate proposal by the 2019 URI Arts and Science Diversity Committee should have been: “Expanding Diversity at URI for African-Americans & Latinos by Ending the Violence of Institutional Racism.” The obvious complete lack of expertise on Diversity Committees and utilization of evidence deeply bothers Professor Fosu.
Inescapable Feeling of Inferiority at URI
The aforementioned are only a handful of examples of an anatomy of endemic systemic racism, which supports historic structural racism at the University of Rhode Island and other institutions. Yes, the most visceral examples of racism the public recognizes are police officers who may kill a Black person in public by placing us in a physical choke-hold when we firmly demand our rights or question their authority; however, in academic institutions such as URI the most brilliant and erudite Black scholars who are observed as threats to our structurally racist policies are privately and quietly placed in more refined asphyxiation techniques that leave little or no traces of the source of their demise. These highly suppressive and effective systemic asphyxiation techniques and convoluted oppressive racist administrative procedures on campuses all over America, create an inescapable feeling of inferiority amongst targeted groups with the intention to make them feel marginalized, and invariably dissent goes silent, potentials go untapped and equity is contravened.