Open Letter To UAlbany Bus Students – [#DefendBlackGirlsUAlbany]
Dear Alexis, Ariel, & Asha:
While the circumstances compelling us to write this letter have no doubt been taxing to your well-being, we hope to find you all in good physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Late last month, when news of the now infamous UAlbany bus incident began to circulate, those of us familiar with the grim realities of race and gender based violence were overcome with a desire to extend our support. We knew that any and all abuses endured would likely leave painful and lasting impressions on each of you. We also knew the importance of simply believing your accounts. Believing women who’ve survived assault is essential to dismantling the systems and practices which allow these assaults to persist. But we also believed you because absolutely nothing about your account was unbelievable. We respect, value, and trust your experiences as Black women.
In light of recent events, we’d like to take this opportunity to once again affirm our unabashed and unwavering support.
Many of us who rallied behind you from the beginning did so in an attempt to offer comfort and reprieve in the immediate aftermath of the attack. We also understood that by coming forward you were opening yourselves up to an additional onslaught of calculated violence from members of the general public; as well as members of the UAlbany student body and faculty, social and news media, and local law enforcement. The false notion that violence can only be measured in kicks and punches is a convenient mainstay of patriarchy and white supremacy. It is clear to those of us who endure the never ending barrage of insults, micro and macro aggressions, thinly veiled threats, personal slights, media mischaracterization, and double standards in law enforcement that violence knows many forms. And while these affronts cannot always be quantified or freeze framed for those privileged enough to evade them, we want you to know that we wholeheartedly understand and empathize with the challenges you are currently facing, and will continue to face for the foreseeable future.
While the media and the public were clamoring for evidence to invalidate your experiences, we anticipated that if and when video was released it would be devoid of all context, and likely show only select portions of the altercation. This past Thursday, those expectations were confirmed. Predictably, those who’ve questioned the incomplete nature of the footage have been demonized for pointing out the obvious.
As city and university officials encouraged citizens not to “rush to judgment” in believing three Black women, they wasted no time in attempting to discredit your account via inconclusive recordings and selective witness testimony. To some, the lack of clear audio capturing racial slurs during the melee is enough “evidence” to conclude no slurs were uttered at your expense. Those of us who are subjected to racist language on a near-constant basis have an understanding that it is rarely, if ever, caught on tape. In magnificent irony, many of the individuals decrying your accounts of racism have resorted to calling you all manner of racist verbiage publically, and on social media.
District Attorney Soares has even gone so far as to use your 911 emergency calls as grounds to levy criminal charges against you. The aggressive nature in which the DA’s office has pursued these charges stand in stark contrast with their handling of recent and even fatal abuses perpetrated by white police officers. Sadly, we’ve come to expect this type of blatant misconduct and prejudicial incompetence from DA Soares.
While skeptics and naysayers wade through the minutiae and superficial details of this incident in order to satiate their own dissonance, we remain focused on the bigger tasks at hand. These tasks include ensuring your safety and the safety of Black and Brown women everywhere; holding arbiters of abuse and discrimination accountable for their actions; and empowering Black and Brown people existing within the suffocating confines of white supremacy. The trauma you all experienced on the morning of January 30th is only unique in that it has garnered substantial attention. The unrelenting racism and sexism that permeates throughout cities and campuses around the country are commonplace, and we remain committed to actively and deliberately combatting that oppression.
Lastly—Alexis, Ariel, and Asha—we’d like to thank you for inspiring so many of us with your resilience, dignity, strength, poise and grace amidst such adversity. You should all hold your heads with pride in knowing what you have already overcome and accomplished in your lives.
We’ve got your back.
People of Color Caucus, Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration