Based on a well-received, one-sentence tweet, a University of Pennsylvania professor is preparing to lead a direct-action, walkout-style event over two days for educators and students to address racial violence and unjust policing.
“I would be down as a professor to follow the NBA and Strike for a few days to protest police violence in America,” Anthea Butler tweeted last week, referring to the recent walkout by pro athletes over the police shooting of Jacob Blake and other Black men.
Those in higher education plan to pause classes and administrative duties on September 8 and 9 for the Scholar Strike, a teach-in about racial violence, policing and community organizing. Some 600 professors have committed across multiple universities, and #ScholarStrike has taken off as a hashtag.
“We’re not so much protesting our individual universities,” Butler explained, “as we are protesting police violence and racial injustice in this country.”
Professors also plan to recast direct action in the pandemic environment. With classes online for many US colleges, this will not be a walkout in a traditional sense but rather a hybrid model of protest that doesn’t stop at pausing lecture for a day, said Butler, an associate professor of religious studies and Africana studies.
“For the main piece of #ScholarStrike, I’m building out a website. We’ll have a YouTube channel where we’re going to post 10 minute lessons about injustice in America and talk about policing and organizing,” she said. Kevin Gannon, a history professor at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, is the co-facilitator.
By providing free resources to teachers and students, the professor-activists will offer widespread access to the event instead of relegating the academic conversations to their respective virtual campuses. The method shines a light on the new reality for US schools: the classroom is everywhere, Butler said.
“That’s kind of the twofold thing about this,” she said. “For the rest of the time, on the 8th and the 9th (of September), we would be using social media platforms to kind of do long-form tweets to teach about this history of racialized violence.”
Professors can also adapt Butler and Gannon’s action plan, highlighting issues specific to their college communities. Topics such as intellectual gatekeeping and overpolicing on college campuses may also come up.
“Scholars have knowledge,” Butler said. “And so part of what we want to do is not only to strike but to do a teaching and allow others to conduct their own teachings.”