We, the members of the English department, unequivocally condemn acts of violence and hate against Black and brown people such as Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Dijon Kizzee, and too many others. The list is horrifyingly long. We understand that the deeply entrenched systemic racism in American society, and in western society more broadly, unjustly targets, punishes, and criminalizes Black men, Black women, and other people of color. We also understand that this racism disproportionately affects women of color and LGBTQ+ people of color and impacts the ability of affected people to function healthily and safely in their communities. We stand with our Black and brown students in saying that enough is enough.
Thirty years ago, the English department was made up entirely of white men. While we have come a long way since then, we are still a predominantly white department at a predominantly white institution. We recognize that our faculty, and the content of many of our courses, do not look like or reflect the lived realities of many of our students of color. We are working very hard to change and grow, and will continue to do so.
Here are some of the steps that we have taken and plan to take:
- We will continue to make our classrooms, offices, and community a welcoming and above all safe space for all people of color, and we will work to improve and expand our inclusive culture.
- We welcome and encourage feedback from our students, especially our students of color, as we continue to learn. However, we pledge never to put the bulk of the burden on them to educate us.
- We have worked to make our courses, and individual syllabi, more equitable and inclusive so as to redress a long history of erasure and violence on which Western curricula have historically been based. We are proud to have diverse course offerings, and are one of the few colleges to offer a course specializing in early African American literature. We have had to fight, and will continue to fight, to retain this curriculum and to expand it. We realize that we still have a ways to go. We will strive, to the absolute best of our abilities during this current budget crisis, to hire diverse faculty and/or faculty who cover diverse perspectives. It is critical that our faculty and our courses increasingly look like and reflect the experiences of our students.
- We acknowledge our debt to the ways that minoritized critics--from James Baldwin to C.L.R. James to Chinua Achebe to Toni Morrison--have long read Western canonical texts against the grain.
- We will take part in the many available training resources at the College to help us recognize and change our own inherent and often unconscious biases so as to make ourselves better teachers, better learners, better colleagues.
- We pledge to continue interrogating our own fields, some of which were created when white supremacy and imperialism were offered as normative experiences. We need to continue to reconcile how this history has shaped and perpetuated, and continues to perpetuate, racism and the erasure and experiences of people of color.
- We will continue to offer regular programming (through the selection of our annual Hausman speakers and the curation of our Emerging Writers Festival, for example) that centers the voices and experiences of people of color.
- We are available for conversations within small groups, and we welcome these occasions.
As students and teachers and lovers of writing and reading, we recognize that language has the power to liberate as well as oppress. It has the power to foster empathy and to connect people across lines of power and privilege. Part of our work as your professors is not only to teach you about what it means to be participants and creators in different discourse communities, but also to continually re-evaluate our own positions in those communities.
We are here for you,
Genevieve Abravanel, Erik Anderson, Patrick Bernard, Meg Day, Tamara Goeglein, Shari Goldberg, Kabi Hartman, Emily Huber, Peter Jaros, Padmini Mongia, Nick Montemarano, Judith Mueller, Deb Saporetti, Kerry Sherin Wright