Department of Economics statement on racism
We are seriously disturbed and saddened by the recent killings of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, and many other Blacks by police. We stand with those who peacefully protest for reforms to prevent such killings as well as the all too frequent harassment and mistreatment of Blacks and other marginalized populations by police.
At the same time, we recognize that this recent violence is just one manifestation of the systemic racism that has permeated American society and its institutions. For over 400 years, slavery, segregation, lynchings, and other collective actions have deprived Blacks of their lives, livelihoods, and dignity while reinforcing prevailing racist attitudes toward Blacks. Despite a half-century of corrective actions such as civil rights legislation and Affirmative Action, Blacks continue to experience unequal outcomes in a variety of ways, be it their treatment by police or the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Racism is also very much present in the economics profession. In a recent survey conducted by the American Economic Association, only three percent of respondents identified themselves as Black, in contrast with 13 percent of the US population. In the same survey, 47 percent of Black economists reported experiencing discrimination in professional life, and only 45 percent of all respondents believed that economists who are not White are respected in the profession. Many university economics departments, including ours, have no Black faculty members.
We recognize that racism is not easily overcome or corrected. It is not enough to reject the more blatant expressions of racism, or to simply declare oneself “nonracist” or “colorblind”. Racism is so ingrained in social norms, institutions, and culture, that what may appear on the surface to be normal and benign is in fact toxic, dehumanizing, and deadly to Blacks. Overcoming the legacy of racism must be a deliberate and active process. It requires a willingness to acknowledge and take responsibility for it, while giving up the all too common defense of “I’m not racist.” Racism is not so much an individual attribute as a hue that permeates our attitudes, social norms, behaviors, and institutions.
We do not yet have a clear roadmap to eliminating racism in our society, in the economics profession, or in our department. Concrete actions will be needed, but these must be taken with a clear understanding of racism and a fierce intent to overcome it in a way that is just and fair. We welcome constructive and informed dialogue toward that end.
We also stand against bigotry, discrimination, and violence directed against other marginalized groups such as women, racial/ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ community. We commit to working to overcome such injustices.