Statement from The Rural Sociological Society Leadership on the Murder of George Floyd and the U.S. Protests

The leadership of Rural Sociological Society extends its profound concern, empathy, and support to all of our members as we absorb the pain of the national trauma unfolding around us, within our cities, and within our communities. We hope you are staying safe and taking care of yourselves and your families. We share your sorrow, your frustration, and your anger. We also share your concern and worry for the health and safety of family, friends, neighbors, and communities, and indeed for the well-being and democratic integrity of our nation. We recognize too that many of us in the RSS embody identities, racial and otherwise, that mark us firsthand for experiences of marginalization, oppression, and exclusion. We signal particular solidarity with you. We hear you, we love you, we stand with you, and we reach out to you as we collectively try to reconcile and respond to these profoundly disturbing times.

The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, and the ensuing national and global protests, represent not simply the logical conclusion to the racist killings of black and brown people over the last months and years, but indeed the 400-year legacy of racist violence, subjugation, deep structural inequalities, and white supremacy threaded throughout this country’s history. The protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder have been met, in turn, by heavily militarized police, often acting with little hesitation to disperse protesters by violent means, while simultaneously arresting and detaining journalists. They are abetted by a president with little compunction about meting out violent suppression of popular resistance while characterizing protestors as “terrorists.” This response, both by militarized police and by government at the highest levels, only reaffirms in the minds of those at the receiving end of the tear gas and rubber bullets that the value of their lives pales in comparison to the value of an increasingly fragile social and economic status quo.

The broad patterns and implications of racism and white supremacy within American society are impossible to deny. As rural sociologists we recognize how our own discipline was borne out of and flourished within land grant institutions sited on stolen lands. And we recognize as well how professional norms of the social sciences and academia in general continue to marginalize scholars of color, silence indigenous voices, and/or further colonialist and racist agendas. As a Society, we too have serious work to do as we reflect on how our own professional norms and practices may have excluded, silenced, or otherwise marginalized others.

And yet, rural sociology is at the same time a discipline fundamentally and historically informed by deep concern for inequality, inequities, and marginality, both between people and across time and place. Our concerns have been deeply enriched by thinkers like W. E. B. Du Bois whose work was groundbreaking in American sociology for its attempts to provide the “emancipatory empiricism” informing equitable social policies and improved conditions for rural Black Americans. The work of rural sociologists, shaped by deep ethical, moral and social concerns, has actively informed national dialogue on social justice and the intersections between social and spatial marginality, and it will continue to do so.

As an organization, the Rural Sociological Society categorically condemns the racism, inequalities, and structural violence that have inexorably led us to this historical moment. We condemn the use of militarized policing, and the troubling authoritarian tendencies of our current administration. At the same time we reaffirm our core values and beliefs: that the work of our discipline can deepen our critical understanding of the dynamics of subjugation, oppression, and inequality; that these understandings can and must inform public policy and promote social justice; that empowered communities and civic engagement constitute the core of a democratic polity. We actively grieve George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, among the many others, yet we strive to transform this grief, frustration, and anger into a renewed commitment and action towards transformation both within our Society and within the world more broadly for a more just, committed, and hopeful future.

To this end, we urge our members to engage with their elected representatives, community and civic groups. As a practice, the RSS does not officially endorse or partner with any non-academic organizations. However, a variety of organizations are doing critically important anti-racist work, such as Black Lives Matter (, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (, and 8 Can’t Wait (, and we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the efforts of these and other organizations.

Meanwhile, as a Society, we promise to redouble our own actions to promote diversity, inclusion, social justice, and anti-racist work within the RSS. In these efforts we actively encourage the input and ideas of all members. The Society is a collective – it belongs to us all – and the efforts to move us towards a healthier, more welcoming, diverse, ethical, and intellectually rigorous organization depends on us all.

That said, RSS leadership will engage in a number of efforts in the weeks and months ahead. This includes but will not be not limited to:

  • Engaging in ongoing work with the Program Committee, the Ethics Committee and the Diversity Committee to develop programming at our next annual meeting and moving forward that addresses social justice, and equity, and anti-racist, ethically informed practice. We will also be working with these committees to continue to review the Society’s Policies and Procedures as a means of reinforcing the Society’s norms of inclusion and equity;
  • Exploring the reallocation of RSS resources to support and increase attendance by and participation of members from under-represented groups;
  • Conducting land acknowledgements at our annual meetings, recognizing indigenous lands and peoples, and histories of dispossession;
  • Examining our investments to ensure that we are divested from any funds that work at cross purposes to our stated values and goals, and;
  • Tasking the Diversity and Membership Committees with developing short- and long-term strategies to increase diversity of representation at our annual meetings.

This is just a beginning set of steps. We welcome hearing your thoughts and ideas on these matters, and more. Be well, stay safe, and be in touch.

The RSS Executive Committee