Messages of Solidarity
The messages on this page express our faculty’s commitment to using their research, practice, teaching and scholarship to actively, openly and compassionately engage with and advance progress on issues of race and social justice. Visit the “A Path Forward” page, a space we have created for the USC Annenberg community to come together and to fill this moment with the strength of our collective voices.
- School of Communication Faculty
- School of Journalism Faculty
- Public Relations Faculty
- Public Diplomacy Faculty
The Faculty of the Annenberg School of Communication stand in solidarity with those protesting, mobilizing, and seeking redress for the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other Black lives throughout recent and distant history as a consequence of white supremacy, police brutality, and other forms of institutional racism that undermine, threaten, and destroy lives. We stand together with Black communities around the world and lend our voices and actions to theirs. As scholars of communication, we are also against the vicious attacks on the press and on protesters exercising their First Amendment rights to express their views and their outrage against racial injustice and against the systems of racial impunity that have normalized the criminal behavior of police against Black, brown, and Indigenous/Native communities. We use this statement as a reminder that the right to speak and the right to protest are the cornerstones of democracy. It is incumbent upon us to defend these rights and to stand in solidarity with those who most need them.
In a pandemic disproportionately impacting Black, brown, Indigenous/Native, and other vulnerable communities, these forms of police aggression against protesters and the press constitute a dire threat to public health, compounding the COVID-19 risk burdens these communities already bear. We condemn such police tactics of suppression, which demonstrate precisely the alarming disregard for public safety and individual well-being giving rise to protest. As scholars of culture and society, we acknowledge that white supremacy and COVID-19 are both global health emergencies, each revealing longstanding inequities in health care, housing, education, work safety, security, and opportunity. We denounce the use of policing in place of confronting ongoing social neglect.
As scholars of media technologies, we also condemn the way that companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Amazon continue undermining the goal of racial justice by failing to end systematic campaigns of disinformation, by publishing hate speech, and by building surveillance and profiling technologies that law enforcement uses to suppress protest and civic expression.
As educators who help to train large numbers of people who enter the entertainment, media, and communication technology industries, we have a particular obligation to awaken our students and alumni to the systematic exclusions, marginalizations, silencings, and erasures of the histories and lives of people of color. We recommit ourselves to helping them understand how the genres and technological systems that define contemporary political and popular culture have emerged from contexts of white supremacy, colonization, and exploitation, continuing in both conscious and unconscious institutional structures. We commit to fostering in our students — and ourselves — a commitment to inclusive hiring decisions, ethical listening, and thoughtful and constructive representational choices. We need to collectively hold the media industries and ourselves accountable for the content we produce and circulate. Such values need to be incorporated into every class we teach as part of the core vision of an Annenberg education. We recommit ourselves to revising our syllabi, assignments, teaching practices, and advising cultures to ensure that these values are reflected in whose voices get heard, what ideas get examined, and ultimately, how we address the ways that powerful and oppressive institutions manufacture consent.
Our Black students have shown great courage in speaking out about the microaggressions and mixed messages they receive in the process of coming to campus, attending classes, and participating in our larger community. As faculty members, we hear you, we see you, and we recommit ourselves to implementing inclusive, anti-racist curriculum and community practices to address issues students and faculty identified during the Dean’s Forum and elsewhere. As such, this statement is the beginning, not the end of this work. Such a process will not be quick or easy if it is to be meaningful. It forces us to re-examine many aspects of our everyday interactions with each other, whether faculty, staff or students, and it will require significant institutional change in order to decisively address the concerns that you have raised. Importantly, it requires accountability and transparency on our part. We ask all of you — students, staff, faculty, alumni, and other community members — to join us as we engage with this process.
We, the faculty at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism, call for racial equity and join with professional organizations and journalists throughout the country in condemning attacks on reporters covering protests during this period of civil unrest that began with the killing of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Our nation and our democracy have thrived because of our free press. It’s a cornerstone of our democracy, protected by the First Amendment. But our current administration has, through words, actions and threats, attempted to paint journalists as “enemies of the people.”
In the past weeks, some police have taken the war on journalism even further. As of June 8, 2020, the US Press Freedom Tracker had documented more than 300 cases of press freedom violations, the majority of them involved assault on journalists who clearly identified themselves as a member of the press, and more than a dozen journalists have been arrested while doing their jobs. Many of these incidents have involved journalists of color who are essential to ensuring news coverage is balanced and addresses all sectors of our society.
Some of the incidents have been in Los Angeles, the city where most of our students report. We teach these young people to know their rights as journalists and how to stay safe while reporting. We hoped they would never need training to protect themselves against attacks from the very people charged with protecting all citizens. As we continue to learn more about these incidents, we call upon local leaders, in Los Angeles and around the country, to demand independent reviews and strict accountability for all incidents of police misconduct and violence.
The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, and so many others have driven thousands worldwide to protest.
We must acknowledge that Black Americans have endured hundreds of years of institutional and systemic racism and thanks to citizen journalists, we now have documentation of police brutality. Thanks to professional journalists, we have the means to inform the public, who can advocate for democratic change.
As members of the Public Relations faculty at the USC Annenberg School, we join with university leaders and professionals across our industry in denouncing the continued violence against Black Americans and the institutional racism inherent in our justice system. We stand together in solidarity with the Black community.
Never in the history of our country has thoughtful, effective communications been more important. However, that is not what we witnessed on Monday, June 1, when riot police attacked peaceful protesters and members of the media with batons, tear gas and flash grenades to facilitate a self-serving photo-op of the President holding a Bible outside a nearby church. This premeditated PR stunt is reminiscent of the darkest days of state propaganda — when leaders controlled dissent through military force and exploited religious imagery to justify genocide. As PR professors, this is not what we teach. As PR professionals, this is not what we practice.
We believe in the ethical use of communications. Therefore, we call on the Trump administration and its communications advisors to cease the misappropriation and malpractice of public relations in service of divisiveness and hatred. These insidious theatrics must stop, along with the media coverage they generate. As leaders in the public relations field, we have the responsibility to condemn the abuse of our discipline. At the same time, we have the ability to shine a spotlight on everyday citizens who are working peacefully to bring equality to our country.
Read the message on the Center on Public Diplomacy website here.