In May, individuals and organizations around the world spoke out against the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minnesota police officer, the string of similar killings that preceded it, and the countless subtler acts of systemic racism that take place every day. As my University of Toronto Press, colleagues and I crafted our statement on the issue, we took a page from one of our much-lauded recent books about the Black experience in Canada.
In Black Racialization and Resistance at an Elite University, rosalind hampton observes that university-adjacent activists often adopt “limited notions of activism” that serve to erase the contributions and resistance of women and racialized communities. Excluding their vital work, explains hampton, limits “the potential vision and capacity for disrupting dominant power dynamics within movements, as well as the potential for achieving broader social change.”
To be effective, hampton reminds us, collective gestures need to be inclusive. With that in mind, we knew the stance we took had to represent both our publishing team and our authors. UTP has a long history of amplifying voices from traditionally marginalized groups. Rather than merely highlighting those authors to illustrate the press’s commitment to racial equality, we explored ways that their books could directly support the movement.
We decided to commit 100% of the profits from 2020 sales of our Black Studies books—a list that contextualizes the challenges Black people face every day and confronts the sociopolitical underpinnings of systemic racism—to support Black Lives Matter Toronto. Many of these books emerged from the activist work of academics. By underwriting that work with funds raised by book sales, we help buttress this Black literary ecosystem.
Despite the economic downturn due to the Covid pandemic, everyone on the UTP team agreed that it was necessary for us to actively support the Toronto Black community. As Canada’s largest scholarly press, we at UTP believe that words carry weight. Books can foster a better understanding of the world and how people think, plan, and govern. By joining forces, as authors, readers, and publishers, we can dismantle white supremacy in all its forms.
Chris Reed is a publicist at the University of Toronto Press.