Statement of Solidarity: Message from Director Jill Stoner

 

June 4, 2020

Dear friends,

It is nearly three months since we entered a strange new world, both more remote and more connected than the familiar collegial spaces of design studios and lecture halls, and the pleasurable camaraderie of crowded pubs and cafes. It seems a lifetime ago.

The coronavirus took over the news media, reshaped political decisions, and derailed the economy; it interfered with vacation plans and daily routines. We saw a growing increase in anti-Asian racism, provoked by COVID-19 fears and ignorance. Confined to our homes, many of us turned our energies inward. We spent weeks learning to cope, striving to maintain some sense of “normal” and remain in contact with loved ones. To stay safe.

With heads of state falling ill, coronavirus may have appeared to be the great equalizer. But, even in the early days, there was evidence that Black people were disproportionally affected and suffered significantly higher mortality rates. When these statistics became apparent, in mid-April, the U.S. President decided the number of deaths did not matter after all, that those Black lives did not matter. He said it was time to get back to business.

Last week, in Minneapolis, members of the police force murdered George Floyd, a Black man, in plain sight. This “getting back to business” once again brought violent evidence of deeply ingrained injustices, generations in the making, directed at those who are Black, Indigenous, and people of colour.

To me, as an American, the predictable aftermath of rhetorical outrage and peaceful protest on one side, and asymmetric physical aggression and militaristic shows of force on the other, is achingly familiar. But Canada, perhaps less overtly, also participates in practices that discriminate; there is work to be done here too.

I find hope and inspiration in the rich diversity and caring spirit of the Azrieli School at Carleton. As a community, I know that we stand together in support of all those affected, directly and indirectly, by an unjust system. Our design disciplines interact with these injustices, perpetuating divisions among people not intentionally, but through traditions of power and hierarchy and omissions in the interest of expediency and profit. Historically, the built landscape does not recognize everyone equally.

So, let us commit to challenging typologies that we have long taken for granted, and work with higher consciousness toward spatial justice and inclusive communities. Let us also discover other forms of agency, to challenge racism at its roots. This is what we can do.

Jill Stoner
Director and Professor
Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism