May 29, 2020
The Executive Board of the Teaching Assistants’ Association, the union representing graduate student workers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, condemns the state-sanctioned lynching of George Floyd earlier this week. We stand in solidarity with protesters in Minneapolis and everywhere demanding justice and an end to racist police brutality, including the inspirational actions of our union siblings in Minneapolis’ ATU local 1005, who refused to allow their buses to be used to transport protesters to jail.
George Floyd’s murder is yet another reminder of the reality that Black lives continue to be devalued and destroyed because of the racist violence that is foundational to America. As we organize for a better and more just world, we know that it will be the police who stand in our way. When workers strike, it is the police who break up our picket lines and surveil us. When we march, it is the police who will shoot at and tear-gas us. When TAA members confront UW administrators to demand better working conditions and pay, it is the police who are called to monitor and arrest us. The racist institution of enforcement continually serves the interests of power, capital, and white supremacy, and the police are no friend of ours.
Wisconsin has a terrible legacy of racism and police violence against Black and brown people that must be actively confronted if we are to work toward a just world. We remember and honor those murdered by police in Wisconsin in recent years: Derek Williams, Dontre Hamilton, Sylville Smith, Tony Robinson. The city of Madison, in particular, frequently tells itself that it is a bastion for progress and tolerance. But the local work done by Black- and POC-led organizations dispels any such illusions. The calls for police-free schools from Freedom Inc. are routinely undermined in local media and are met with hostility from Madison school board members. The work by Free the 350 Bail Fund to oppose the construction of new jails and free those incarcerated in local jails who cannot afford bail, disproportionately people of color, is tragically underfunded. How much longer can the predominantly white community of Madison delude itself into thinking that its liberalness is part of the solution, rather than part of the problem?
We want to amplify the calls-to-action to our allies and membership, following the lead from Black organizers in Minneapolis and Madison:
- Call Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today and urge them to appoint an independent prosecutor to work under the Attorney General’s authority: Act Now: Call for Justice for George Floyd
- Donate to Minneapolis-based organizations supporting protesters:
- Donate to the Official George Floyd Memorial Fund organized by Philonise Floyd
- Donate to Black-led organizations doing anti-police work in Madison:
- Donate to organizations doing direct mutual aid work for our community:
Additionally, we encourage members who are able to attend tomorrow’s (Saturday) socially distanced solidarity rally at the Capitol building beginning at noon: Justice for George Protest- Madison, WI.
Challenging racism means challenging the institutions of our society that actively perpetuate it. The TAA actively works to challenge systemic racism and demands that our education and justice systems do as well. When we call on the University of Wisconsin–Madison to provide financial relief to its graduate students, or when we demand that administrators put its workers and students ahead of profit in the wake of COVID-19, we do so with a vision of a university that redistributes its resources equitably so that its scholars of color can thrive, not just survive. We stand in active solidarity with our Black graduate student workers and undergraduates against the oppressive structures at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and nationwide. More work must be done to make this work actionable, and the TAA is here for it.
An injury to one is an injury to all.
In solidarity and struggle,
The TAA Executive Board