A statement released on Friday, June 5, 2020:
Dear CDCI community, partners, and friends:
I am writing to join those demanding justice for the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmed Aubrey, Tony McDade, and many more unarmed Black people. Their horrific deaths are occurring as the COVID-19 pandemic lays bare the outcomes of racist policies in the U.S with Black Americans dying 2.4 times higher than White Americans (APM Research Lab, June 1, 2020). As CDCI’s Director, I see the call to action to dismantle racist policies and systems as critical to our work.
Our Center's vision is "a future where all people, including people who experience developmental and other disabilities, and their families, are fully included in their homes, schools, and communities leading to self-determination, independence, productivity, and participation in all parts of community life.” This vision can only be achieved through direct action in the defense of everyone’s rights, especially Black Americans.
For many reasons, we cannot advocate for disability rights while ignoring the fight for racial justice. More Black Americans identify as having disabilities (1 in 4) compared White Americans (1 in 5; Courtney-Long, E.A., Romano, S.D., Carroll, D.D. et al., 2017). In Vermont, 1 in 3 people who identify as racial or ethnic minorities report having a disability (Vermont Department of Health, 2018). Racism and ableism have long been connected and utilized to oppress and justify the denial of basic human rights. Our university’s participation in Vermont Eugenics Survey is a testament to that. And, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 directly influenced disability rights legislation that followed, including the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 that funds our Center.
At CDCI, we prioritize Inclusive Excellence in our teaching, service, research, and sharing of information. We see the call for antiracist actions and policies as part of this commitment. In January, Ibram X. Kendi visited our university and charged us to be antiracist. Inaction and silence do not lead to progress, and it is not enough to be not racist. Black and other people of color experience a much less inclusive Vermont and UVM. Discrimination by individuals and policy must be actively sought out and challenged.
As we pursue our mission and work plan, we will critically examine how we are upholding this commitment and where we need to do better. We will actively and intentionally work within our Center and with our partners to end racist policies and disparities.
Thank you for your continued partnership, commitment, and hope.
All my best,
Jesse Suter, Ph.D.
We also stand in solidarity with recent statements by: