Post-election letter reaffirming URBAN core values

Dear Colleagues,

As a network of scholars and activists who link university and community resources in the service of community engaged research, action, and social change, URBAN knows that in this critical moment, we must speak to and fight back against voter suppression and civil rights violations, as well as continue to address systems of racial, gender, and economic inequality.

There is a deep racist structure and narrative in the United States in which poor and working class whites have been organized to express their discontent not against the real sources of their oppression but against African American, Latino, and other marginalized groups in our society. Trump’s victory is the latest iteration and a very dangerous one. As Toni Morrison explains it, the subconscious fear of losing the “comfort of being naturally better than” was a central motivator for many white Americans, particularly white men, who are so afraid of the collapse of white privilege that they ultimately “flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength.”

And even as the election results have stunned many of us, we must remember that Clinton won the popular vote by > 1 million, and the majority of votes from those under age 44. And 46.9% of the electorate did not vote. And 6.1 million incarcerated citizens could not vote.

Occupy, Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers, and more than 12 million votes supporting a septuagenarian socialist-leaning candidate—especially among diverse groups of young peoples—are also truly powerful messages about the status quo and the hunger for change.

In a post-factual discursive world, it is essential to engage in critical analyses that help us understand and address why so many deny climate change, or are anti-science. To attend to varied epistemologies (especially those critical of specious claims about big data) –to engage in deep listening and acknowledgment of lived experience, and to theorize on why this disregard of evidence is happening in publicly accessible ways—is radical and useful work. To forward alternate solutions that resonate with our communities—against xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny, antisemitism, and hate—is a radical act.

No macro policy changes can be achieved without meso-level, organizational work, nor without micro-level conversations, relationship-building, and self-care. At URBAN, we aim to create spaces, free of political posturing, where we can really hear from each other and affirm one another. We need to be as strong as possible for this journey. And together we stand strong in our condemnation of the hateful acts of intimidation, aggression, harassment and assault that have been directed against so many, including our own members and community partners in the run up to and wake of the election.

Moving forward
Over the coming months, we will work to draw deeper connections across the United States, including the Midwest and Deep South, to learn how we can work with and bolster economic, social, and cultural organizations, researchers, and artists working for social justice. We will call for new approaches to understanding the global ascension of austerity economics in order to serve far-right, fascist movements. And we will continue to ask what can we, as URBAN, do to support community-engaged scholarship and collaborative problem-solving?

In the meantime, as a network composed primarily of university-based scholars, we must stand in solidarity with those whose safety, rights, and dignity are now in added danger. Let us help to set a tone in which hate speech is not tolerated, and all can engage in critical inquiry. At the University of California, Chancellor Janet Napolitano stated that the university “remain[s] absolutely committed to supporting all members of our community and adhering to UC’s Principles Against Intolerance.” Let us urge our respective institutions to make similar statements in line with our missions as institutions of higher education, and to set aside mental health, legal, and other resources for our communities in the upcoming months.

In addition, various mayors and governors around the country have made official statements stating that their city and state administrations will do all they can to protect undocumented immigrants, Muslims, women, and all of us who are currently threatened. Approximately 300 U.S. cities are currently “sanctuary cities”; if more become so, it will become more difficult for Trump to follow through on his threat to withhold federal funding from them.

We feel upset, angry, and scared, thinking about our students, families, friends, and others. But perhaps, sometimes, the real revolution lies not in the push but the push-back. ¡Pa’lante, siempre pa’lante!

In solidarity,
The URBAN National Planning Team

Some resources for university professors:
Teaching Resources for Difficult Times:
Trump Syllabus 2.0:
US Human Rights Network,
National Economic and Social Rights Initiative,
Peoples’ Decades for Human Rights Education, PDHRE,
Oomen, B. Davis, M. & Grigolo, M. (2016). Global Urban Justice: The Rise of Human Rights Cities. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Philadelphia Teacher Action Group:

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