The RSE grieves for those who have lost their lives to all forms of injustice. Racism is injustice with particularly pernicious effects. We are part of the international research community that shares these feelings of anger, grief and frustration. We are indebted to the Black Lives Matter movement for giving greater impetus to our current work in engaging with and understanding those who experience discrimination in all its forms.

We are confident that, in our present day, we are committed to standing against injustice and standing for equality. The RSE has demonstrated this commitment over many years and most recently through our ongoing activities. These activities include our Young Academy of Scotland programme supporting at-risk academics and refugee professionals; our human rights work supporting academics-at-risk internationally as part of the UK Human Rights Committee; and establishing an RSE Africa Working Group for mutual exchange. Over the last five years, the RSE has hosted discussions on slavery, empire and colonialism. These include the human rights lecture and roundtable by Dr Bertrand Ramcharan, former Acting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; and the lecture on slavery from the esteemed Ghanaian poet and academic, Professor Kofi Anydoho. Our core values and commitment to equality and diversity underpins all that we do. Nonetheless, it is clear that we can and must do more to ensure that our work does not contribute, unwittingly, to the perpetuation of structural inequalities and that we take another long look at how we tell our history.

Whilst we are confident that there are past Fellows who pioneered and fought for justice for those who otherwise would not have had a voice, we must face our historical connections, direct and indirect, with the slave trade. We need to consider previous injustices, specifically acknowledging where the RSE had abolitionists and obstructionists amongst its past Fellows.

The RSE’s present is inextricably linked with its past. We shall, therefore, engage with relevant institutions and learn from scholars of slavery, including in the global south, to better understand our history with the objective that we learn from that past for the future wellbeing of all.

Black Lives Matter.