*This post has been updated on 22 June 2020 to include additional three societies that have joined the charge and are making a commitment to the ideas and call for action expressed. The World Leisure Organization, the Association for Event Management Education, and the Academy of Leisure Sciences Africa are those societies.
On moral imagination during these times.
This is not yet another anti-racism statement, this is a charge. Many of us have been inundated with statements from Universities, corporations, institutions, organisations, associations, and governments. Some statement authors may be well intentioned. Other authors may be using the sudden comfort in saying words like “White supremacy”, “racism”, “racial violence”, “anti-Blackness”, and even “genocide”. But very few of these authoring entities have a history of grappling with these words and the real realities that they reflect. Who is the audience for these statements? Families of the deceased? The communities in which the deceased lived? The organisations that are actively working for justice? The state institutions responsible? The state actors who engaged in the act? The political leadership and elected officials who create the policies for these actions? Well, none of them are members or readers of this. And no statement can bring about justice. Where is the action?
We acknowledge that these statements and this charge come out of a recent spate of what some may call anti-Black repression in the United States. Simply due to the availability of a video, we also know the killing or injuring of one is only the tip of an iceberg that includes but is not limited to, the starvation of wages, mass incarceration, lack of equitable quality health care, unjust legal and policy systems, displacement, opportunism in political representation, lack of affordable education, and the restriction in using public space for recreation, gathering to demonstrate, and the presentation of grievances. While some of us may be stunned by what was seen on video or the steady accumulation of incidents that are filmed and not filmed, we have also seen or read of similar accounts in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Israel, the Philippines, South Africa, and the United Kingdom during the coronavirus pandemic and the spread of COVID-19.
1. This is not a statement, this is a charge. Caring, we suppose, is nice. Pledging to do better is quaint. Performing acts of care is kind. But changing the ways in which the world functions is a (in)surmountable task that must be undertaken. It begins with recognising and “outing” injustices, and the moral imagination of changing the ways that the world is reflected in our functioning, as a field and as individuals. Through hard work has always been the order of the day, we just might not have initially chosen that path. This is not another statement, this is a charge. The Academy of Leisure Sciences, The Australian and New Zealand Association for Leisure Studies, The Canadian Association for Leisure Studies, Leisure and Recreation Association of South Africa, and The Leisure Studies Association, each representing different regions of the world, we are collectively requesting that, in three ways, we create a place or return to a place that includes: Forums tied to the expression of, engagement with, and disruptions in power and oppression are a standard feature of any academic gathering of Leisure and its related fields. This may mean keynotes, panels, forums, workshops, seminars, or tables. This may mean the conception of new forms of gathering, especially during COVID-19, such as working groups, writing collectives, events, or virtual/hybrid meetings/conferences. The long and declining absence of this feature that focuses on injustice in our gatherings has stricken the field with an inability to think critically of societies, identify abuses of oppression, notice privatisßation, and raise cautions about the crumbling of democratic and representative forms of governance. The point here is that matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion deal with a tangential aspect of the current pandemic, but there is a greater need to tackle the complicatedly and apparent ways that leisure conscripts oppression onto the Other. But leisure can also resist that conscription. As a collection of leisure-based learned societies we see this as necessary to enable present-day discussions to exist and future discussion to emerge;
2. Scholarship and published works devoted to discussion, implications, special issues, series, and special reports on matters of power and oppression to ensure that those established and emerging scholars who wish to solely or greatly focus on this have a place for this work and the importance of this work recognised in promotion and tenure related evaluation processes. But in this, we also feel that those matters are the best entry ways for the concerns of disposable and precarious communities, under-powered citizenry, and advocates for change to also access the resources of academia. This access to academia could assist their own efforts in challenging oppressive forms of power in their lives, in their homes, on their lands, in their neighborhoods, and across their countries. While in our ranks are critical scholars of inequality in all its guises, let us not forget leisure and its related fields have been complicit in land theft, colonisation, historical apartheid, xenophobia violence, and ethnic cleansing, but there are scant mentions of this role existing in our classroom texts and teaching, research references and study questions, and service activities and social engagement. As we now scramble to enrich our own understanding of oppression and its many children that deal with matters of Race, gender, class, sexuality, and disability (either distinctively or intersectionally), let’s remember that there are many scholars of colour/BAME – Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic/BIPOC – Black, Indigenous, People of Color, globally that have spent varying amounts of time (Todd Boyd, Ernest Cashmore, Harry Edwards, Myron F. Floyd, Kevin Hylton, Dorceta Taylor for over 20 years) on these matters. They are not simply a voice of colour:
Sue Arai, Aishia Ayanna Brown, Christine Buzinde, Ben Carrington, Donna Chambers, LaWanda Cook, Alana Dillette, Mickey Fern, Mariela Fernandez, Cassandra Johnson Gaither, Edwin Gomez, Augustus Hallmon, Barb Hamilton, Aby Sene-Harper, Dan Henhawk, Barbara Hamilton-Hinch, Viji Kuppan, Drew Lanham, KangJae Jerry Lee, KoFan Lee, Kimberly Lopez, Richard Makopondo, Maliga Naidoo, Corliss Wilson Outley, Harrison P. Pinckney, Brandy Kelly Pryor, Aarti Ratna, Nina Roberts, Ariel Rodriguez, Pooneh Torabian, Felice Yuen, among others who have dealt with this topic in leisure, parks, recreation, sport, tourism, therapy, events, hospitality, conservation, and preservation.
What this pandemic is revealing is not about seeking diverse, inclusive, and equitable voices and faces, but to push ourselves outside our comfort zones to see voices that challenge us. That is for a different time and a different matter. This is about voices of colour that have been articulating a knowledge levied against anti-Blackness, racism, xenophobia, historical discrimination, anti-capitalism, and settler colonialism. If their names or any names are unfamiliar, look up their work. Use their work. Talk about their work. Teach their work. And also keep in mind that there have been scores of individuals racialised as White that have also made it their work to challenge systems power and oppression. Let’s pass our own qualifying examination on this question of justice and injustice.
This is not a statement, this is a charge. And because it is a charge none of the names of the victims have been invoked, until we can earn the right to invoke them. No individual name has been stated here because throughout the world there have been far too many that have been needlessly killed during the pandemic. #SayingHerName, #SayingHisName, and #SayingTheirName is important for the streets in our various global regions, but it is too easy and insufficient for academics to utter. We can do more. We have a vocation which demands that we not only educate, but advocate. Thus,
3. Acknowledgements are needed. We are making this charge to our members to add this question of power in their own research and teaching. We are making this charge to advocate for others to engage with this difficult subject matter. There are attendant expectations for action. And while land acknowledgements on indigenous territories as well as the acknowledgement of troubled histories in former/current colonial powers have a complicated practice in leading to change, we feel that in doing so ensure that it is always on our collective mind.
If we adopt these three approaches, over time we can know lives more than just say names. Maybe in doing so, in knowing lives we can ensure that leisure is no longer apart of anti-life.
Many of you may still feel a need to make a statement for the sake of institutional and professional obligations, and in no way can we prevent this from happening. We, as a collective assembly of leisure and leisure-related learned societies, do not wish to make a joint statement, and thus we presented this charge. Having quality of life is untenable if we cannot live. With a moral imagination, we have a great deal of work to do to support taking back the commons. But individually and collectively, we can make a difference.