Statement of Support for Black Lives Matter and Call to Action
The American Indian Alliance at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas stands in solidarity with the African American community, including our African American family members, in demanding an end to state violence against communities of color. The recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, and Byron Williams – and the deployment of militarized police to suppress those who protest them – are just the most recent manifestations of white supremacy that has long endured in the United States.
We understand the pain and anger this violence has sparked. Our sense of unity stems from our shared histories under the ongoing systems of colonization and white supremacy. The United States, the other colonial entities from which it is descended, and state governments have a long history of incarcerating and killing Indigenous People. Our ancestors endured state-sponsored massacres and confinement; today, killings of Native women go untracked and uninvestigated while Native people are policed and incarcerated at high rates. Police brutality, civil rights violations, and discrimination in Minneapolis led to the creation of the American Indian Movement in 1968 and has helped drive Native involvement in the protests unfolding in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The President’s recent threat to deploy the military against protestors evokes a long lineage of state violence against our tribal nations. This practice was last seen in 2017, when the United States used the National Guard and military tactics against Dakota Access Pipeline water protectors. Our recognition of this shared history of violence is in no way intended to undermine the present focus on African American lives. We believe, unequivocally, that no lives matter until Black lives matter and that their voices must be elevated right now.
We appreciate President Meana’s statement of solidarity and hope the University will demonstrate its commitment to justice by taking concrete steps to root out institutional racism within it. First, we support our colleagues in the African American and Africana Diaspora Studies Program and call upon UNLV to reconsider its contracts with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and to redirect a portion of that funding to the AAS Program. Second, we urge the university to adopt structural interventions to support students and faculty of color. These steps must go beyond statements and take the form of material and financial support, retention, and outreach efforts, including strengthening and supporting ethnic and gender studies programs. Third, we hope the University will reevaluate its mascot, which pays homage to frontiersmen who killed Paiutes and confederate generals who fought to uphold African American slavery. Fourth, we ask the Faculty Senate to make the ad hoc diversity committee a permanent one. Maintaining this committee as an “ad hoc” entity suggests that the University believes these issues are temporary. If anything, the last week should remind us that, so far, racism, colonialism, and genocide are a permanent part of UNLV and the United States. These are only the first steps needed to demonstrate true solidarity.
The uprisings taking place this week in Las Vegas and across the country leave no doubt that racism and state violence are urgent present-day problems that must be addressed at all levels. These are local issues as well as national ones. We reaffirm our shared commitment to this fight.
UNLV American Indian Alliance