We have all watched in horror, though unfortunately not surprise, the video of the George Floyd killing, and the protests that have followed. Coming in the middle of a pandemic, it all feels like more than we can handle. And of course we know that the burdens we have to handle are not evenly distributed. The daily traumatization of African-Americans in our society makes it clear that we have not adequately reckoned with our atrocious history (let alone present) in the United States. The work of memory is ongoing, and has a long way to go. And who knows if we will ever get it right?! We often hear people suggest that the crimes of slavery are 150 years old, and that is long enough. Clearly it has not been. A lot, perhaps even most, of the work remains in front of us.
What is to be done? I wish I had an answer. I do remain strong in my conviction that the work we do as sociologists is screamingly urgent, though it often, particularly in moments like this, feels utterly useless.
What about us as an educational and scholarly community? It shouldnt be necessary—but it is—to restate the department’s firmest commitment to diversity and inclusion. We have a lot of differences, but I am certain we are united in the desire to make the world, starting with our own community, a better place. Sometimes the best we can do is acknowledge the searing pain that moments like the present evince, and all feel it together. There is much to be done. But perhaps the first step is to acknowledge that there are injuries that cannot be healed.
Please do not hesitate to reach out, especially if you need help bearing the weight of it all. Isolated as we are from each other, we remain a community, and an important one at that.
Jeffrey K. Olick
William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology and History
Chair, Dept. of Sociology
202 Randall Hall
PO Box 400766
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904