Department of Anthropology Statement of Solidarity
Dear Colleagues & Students,
We, the faculty of the Department of Anthropology at Appalachian State University stand with our Black students, colleagues, and community members in protest over recent and ongoing white supremacist and police violence against Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. We insist that Black lives matter and stand with protesters and families who grieve the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery for being Black while running, the shooting of nursing student Breonna Taylor by police as she slept in her bed, the killing of Black trans man Tony McDade by Florida police, the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, and the loss of many others at the hands of law enforcement. The recent incident in New York’s Central Park involving false allegations made by a white woman named Amy Cooper against Christian Cooper, a Black birdwatcher, reminds us of how Black and Brown folks are harmed by daily acts of white entitlement and aggression. We cannot go on without acknowledging that systems of police oversight and criminal justice in this country have proven incapable of addressing structural racism that results each year in police violence impacting Black communities across the United States. As a group of scholars and educators, we want our BIPOC students to know that we see and hear you as your communities face disproportionate levels of state violence and bear the overwhelming impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic. We stand in solidarity with protesters in the U.S. and around the world calling for an end to the murder of Black people by police, for abolition, defunding the police, decolonization, and Black liberation.
We recognize that this statement is meaningless without turning a critical lens on ourselves - the discipline of Anthropology - as rooted in the colonial project. Therefore, as teachers of the 21st-century, we aim to disavow and subvert that legacy by actively decolonizing the production of knowledge systems by centering the legacies of colonialism and racism in science, culture, and history. As anthropologists whose research and writing covers different topics and contexts, our work converges on a shared concern for the impact of power and ideology across time, and the systems of inequality that result from them. Racial violence in the United States, particularly by officers of law enforcement, is one legacy of this history. The American Anthropological Association “Statement on Race” states that, “The tragedy in the United States has been that the policies and practices stemming from this (racial) worldview succeeded all too well in constructing unequal populations among Europeans, Native Americans, and peoples of African descent. Given what we know about the capacity of normal humans to achieve and function within any culture, we conclude that present-day inequalities between so-called ‘racial’ groups are...products of historical and contemporary social, economic, educational, and political circumstances.”
Statements are hollow if they are not followed by action. Justice, equity, and a commitment to diversity require continuous work to even begin the process of dismantling long-entrenched systems that maintain white supremacy. The following is the beginning of a number of measures, by no means exhaustive, that we will initiate immediately:
- Undertake a climate survey, with the goal of getting feedback on the experience of our students of color, especially Black and Indigenous voices.
- Acknowledge and actively work towards redressing the lack of Black faculty, and the fact that we only have one POC on the faculty out of 14 full-time faculty.
- Create and implement strategies towards structural change that addresses white supremacy and white privilege within our institution. Our vision aims to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for BIPOC students and colleagues. It would not be equitable nor just to bring in BIPOC students and faculty and expect them to perform diversity.
- To deepen our commitment to teaching and mentoring in ways that help students appreciate the full the diversity of the human experience, to creating classroom environments that foster a deeper understanding of racism and other forms of discrimination, and to promoting empathy and tolerance across racial and other social divides.
- Ask all our faculty to critically evaluate their syllabi to the extent which they include scholars of color, and to make concerted efforts to elevate the work of BIPOC scholars.
Again, this is not an exhaustive list nor are we under the illusion that these and a few other actions will solve the problems we face. But we are committed to thoughtful and sustained work towards structural change.
The Faculty of the Department of Anthropology
Appalachian State University