This statement expresses GTAC’s solidarity with KU Student Body President Niya McAdoo who has faced racist and misogynistic abuse as a result of a retweet containing the message “Death to America.” GTAC unequivocally supports both McAdoo’s right to free speech and the statement itself. We want to acknowledge the broad historical context of this statement and consider the KU administration’s pattern of communication and priorities over the past few weeks that serve the same violent project.
After the withdrawal of the U.S. military from Afghanistan, the latest stop on the Trails of Tears, brings the possibility of a different future. Last week, university administrators wrote to express their solidarity to all those impacted by the twenty-year war. GTAC agrees with the university administration that these important matters must be brought to the attention of the KU community. As they said, we mourn both the murders and injuries of all those subjected to imperialism, including U.S. veterans, Afghan veterans, and the hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians. While the KU administration defines this conjuncture as an “unsatisfying end,” GTAC and the labor movement always look favorably upon the conclusion of illegal warfare. We express solidarity with the Afghan labor movement, and we support their struggle to again establish self-determined politics.
Recent events at KU display how the Indian Wars continue not only in Afghanistan but also here at our institutional home. The weekend before last brought a devastating episode of anti-Native racism as several Native art installations at the Spencer Museum were desecrated. Unfortunately, these violent attacks are part of a long history of anti-Native crimes at KU. As Barbara Perry writes on hate crimes against Native people, “The message is clear: that Indians don’t belong, that they occupy an outsider status, despite their being aboriginal inhabitants of the land. Thus it is important to note the tole hate crimes plays in punishing those Others who have attempted to overstep their boundaries by assuming they, too, are worthy of first-class citizenship.” GTAC unequivocally condemns this white supremacist violence and the message it sends to Indigenous people. This week, the university administration wrote to condemn these punctual events. Notably, the administration remained silent on this matter for over a week. It was only after the bold actions of Indigenous students and activists that the university community heard from Chancellor Girod. GTAC supports and affirms the accusations and organizing work by anti-racist movements on campus and off.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Girod did find the time last week to issue a statement criticizing a “retweet” by Student Body President Niya McAdoo on Twitter. This retweet contained the message “Death to America.” Considering the ambiguity and uncertainty of language, it is always important to define terms. America is a term derived from the name of colonizer Amerigo Vespucci, a contemporary of Christopher Columbus. To this end, President McAdoo clarified the retweet. “Please know,” McAdoo wrote, “that it is death to an America that was built on Indigenous genocide and the backs of Black slaves.” Since America is a word and concept that means many things, we understand the confusion some feel with the statement “Death to America.” However, if America is used to reference the histories of Indigenous genocide and slavery, then GTAC does not hesitate in supporting this stance. Given the ongoing incidents of anti-Native and anti-Black racism, sexism, and ableism at KU, many assumed the university administration would realize the importance of context. Instead, Chancellor Girod remains complicit with the widespread misogynistic and anti-Black violence President McAdoo has faced in response to the post. GTAC is outraged by the collusion of university administration with fascist rhetoric and media. Alongside countless KU student and worker organizations, GTAC demands accountability for the legacies of colonialism and slavery here on campus.
GTAC Executive Board