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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

 

 

From my Washington and Lee English Department:

Dear Members of our Community,

In September of 2017, the English Department published a statement to our students in which we condemned the neo-Nazi rhetoric and violence on display in Charlottesville earlier that summer. We still denounce white supremacy and the overt and insidious ways it operates, on our own campus and throughout the United States. This includes state-sanctioned white supremacist police violence, the deadly consequences of which resulted in the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, Tony McDade, and George Floyd. The alarming frequency of these murders—to say nothing of the gross lack of accountability—must end. The clear inequities experienced by members of underrepresented and vulnerable groups, which are deliberate in a world organized by white supremacy, must end. The stakes are too dear to wait any longer. The current protests around the US and the globe show that we are not alone in this call for a more just world.

As educators, we are responsible for curating and protecting spaces of learning. As such, we have a responsibility to eradicate racism and prejudice from such spaces. We encourage our students to understand the world as a consequence of violent histories of race and racism, of slavery, of settler colonialism, and of prejudice on the basis of color, nation, custom, religion, gender, sexuality, and ability. In short, we challenge them to consider the many forms that policing can take. As literary critics and creative writers, we know that language holds the potential for disrupting racist ideologies, but we should not ignore the threat that language and hateful rhetoric pose in perpetuating racist systems and beliefs. We teach our students to be careful readers, to be thoughtful in their critiques, and to recognize the impact that they can have on their world.

We affirm the moral bare minimum: Black lives matter. But such an affirmation must only be the beginning of a more thorough process of dismantling the systems of oppression. We recognize and support those who take stands against racial injustice and demand another world. This includes protesters, of course, but also those who engage in the quotidian, unglamorous work of organizing, of providing care for the marginalized, of holding things together while so many go on about their lives. Indeed, care-work holds great potential to imagine a way forward. All of us will need to play roles in bringing forth a new world, but we honor those who have risked everything to show the way.

When we teach writing, we often tell our students that a conclusion is an excellent place to imagine what comes next. And in crafting this statement, we aim for it to be backed by action and for it to outline our next steps. Because lasting change arises only from group efforts, we wish to recognize and to support the work being done by members of our Lexington community, the greater Rockbridge area, and the state of Virginia.

To that end, we have collected more than $1000 for the Rockbridge County NAACP and their recently launched Irma Thompson Educators of Color Initiative. This decision is motivated by our wish to aid people who are already engaged in our community, have assessed a need, and have facilitated a response. Established in 2020, the Irma Thompson Initiative assists teachers, counselors, school psychologists and administrators of color with moving expenses, housing, or other job-related expenditures. It is offered as part of a broader effort to help recruit and support educators of color moving to the area, and to promote diversity in the county and cities’ schools.

We have also collected more than $1000 for the Richmond Community Bail Fund. Data concerning pretrial detention and cash bail system demonstrates stark inequity. On a given day, nearly half a million people sit in pretrial detention, separated from their communities and unable to live their lives despite not being convicted of a crime—all because they are unable to pay for the privilege of awaiting trial at home. The cash bail system contributes to the prison industrial complex and does irrevocable, long-term harm. When you take into account Black men ages 18-29 receive significantly higher bail than all other ethnic and racial groups for comparable offenses, the consequences are staggering. The Richmond Community Bail Fund works to help those a system has failed.

While we have opted for donation, there are many ways to respond to this crisis. We have included links below if you would like to learn more about these organizations. Change comes when we work at multiple scales, and we have chosen to respond at the local and state level. If you would like to learn more at a national level and find ways to get involved, we encourage you to visit blacklivesmatter.com as a place to start. And if you would like to make a donation of your own, we suggest starting with local grassroots efforts and looking for organizations that have expressed need.

Another world is possible.

Richmond Community Bail Fund (rvabailfund.org)
Rockbridge NAACP (rockbridgenaacp.com)

 

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