EDITORIAL BOARD: Black lives matter, and saying so is objective journalism

CW: This article contains mentions of violence against Black people, with specific references to police brutality. 

George Floyd — an unarmed Black man accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill — was killed by a white police officer on May 25, 2020. Before George Floyd, it was Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and many, many others. 

These names are among a long list of Black people killed at the hands of white police officers. Rarely are these officers prosecuted for their actions. 

It is long past time that we, as an Editorial Board, make clear: Black lives matter. Amid nationwide protests demanding an end to centuries-long, systemic violence against Black Americans, we support protestors’ demands for a right to live and to hold police accountable for using deadly force against Black people. Peaceful protests have been met with militarized police violence, and we condemn the escalative tactics used to harm those fighting for their lives and exercising their right to protest.

Our duty as a newspaper is to write with objectivity, and so we must be unequivocal in declaring that Black lives matter is not a subjective opinion. True journalistic objectivity requires that we peel back layers of racist politicization, layers which make supporting Black lives seem like a political stance rather than an irrefutable necessity. 

In this case, journalistic “both sides”-ism obscures a clear reality — one side is fighting for their right to live free of violence, and the other side is fighting against. Supporting the right of Black students at the consortium — inside and outside our newsroom — to live freely should not be considered a subjective stance.

We also want to publicly recognize the labor undertaken by Black organizers. At the 5Cs, they have tirelessly organized, advocated and fundraised for student-run mutual aid funds. They have served a crucial purpose in fulfilling needs the colleges cannot and will not meet, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now, we must direct our attention inwards and reflect on how to best serve the Black community in Claremont. We are thinking deeply about how our coverage can amplify Black voices at the Claremont Colleges, and how we have failed Black students in the past. 

Our newsroom is largely devoid of Black voices. Our glaring lack of Black staffers and contributors reflects our tendency to cover certain communities and events and not others. 

We commit to developing and implementing concrete plans to increase Black representation in our newsroom, and will turn to resources already made available to us by Black journalists through the National Association of Black Journalists, Race Forward and The Conversation, among others. 

We also commit to read and emulate the coverage of Black journalists, like Patrice Peck, LZ Granderson, Yamiche Alcindor, Charles M. Blow and so many more who cover violence against Black people in their communities and bear the trauma that comes in doing so. 

In addressing and working to fix our own shortcomings, we call on our institutions to do the same. Out of the five schools, only Pitzer College has enacted a concrete plan to support Black students with a curricular change — a Presidential Initiative to develop courses addressing the historical underpinnings of racial violence and police-community relations

On the other hand, in a public announcement Monday, Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe said “ … our deep and abiding commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity seem more important than ever before.” But not once in her statement did she say the words “race,” “Black” or “police.” 

By using abstract allusions to police violence against Black people, Klawe skirted the very details that define police brutality. In doing so, she stripped these moments’ narratives of specificity and downplayed the violence enacted on Black individuals, undermining the very reason behind nationwide protest. 

These vague abstractions — especially when unaccompanied by tangible institutional changes to support Black students — are a disservice to the Mudd community, and the Claremont community at large. 

We ask that all Claremont Colleges enact real, actionable plans to support Black students. We also ask that our college presidents use clear language that acknowledges the specific targeting of black people by police enforcement and the struggles that Black students face — and we pledge to hold ourselves to the same standard. 

TSL’s editorial board is comprised of its editor-in-chief and two managing editors, and does not necessarily represent the views of other TSL staff members.

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