History Department Statement on Solidarity and Anti-Racism

Created: June 10, 2020  |  Last Updated: June 17, 2020  |  Category:   |  Tagged: ,

The History Department of Washington & Jefferson College, unequivocally condemns the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee, Tony McDade and others by police officers and vigilantes. We acknowledge that this epidemic of violence against Black bodies is a systemic problem, which stems from structural racism. As historians, we recognize that such racism is deeply rooted in our country’s history and has had a sustained and devastating long-term impact on Black communities, indigenous communities, and other communities of color. We stand in solidarity with the W&J Black Student Union’s call to action and share their anguish at this state of affairs. We further stand in solidarity with local, national, and global protesters speaking out against systemic racism and anti-Black violence, and we share their righteous anger and desire for transformative change. We thank the American Historical Association, W&J President John C. Knapp, and the W&J Student Government Association  for their anti-racist statements. The History Department collectively affirms that Black Lives Matter.

As scholars and educators, we recognize that words must be supplemented with actions. We therefore commit ourselves to actively practicing anti-racism in all aspects of our work at W&J. In our scholarship, we commit to educating ourselves on the history of racism and systemic oppression in our country and to producing knowledge that reveals and confronts its insidious effects on our region, our country, and international structures and relationships. We also commit to seeking out the experiences and wisdom of marginalized communities and incorporating it into our scholarship more fully. In our teaching, we commit to diversifying our faculty, our course offerings, and our syllabi, in order to create a learning experience that centers marginalized voices, interrogates the role of racism, slavery, and oppression in shaping the modern world, and empowers our students to become anti-racist leaders who will reshape our country for the better.

As we examine our own experiences and practices, we call on our colleagues, administrators, staff, and students to join us in acknowledging the role that institutions of higher education have played in producing and maintaining structural racism. We recognize that we have benefitted from a system we did not create and do not condone; we seek now to use our position of privilege to dismantle it. We pledge to dedicate our expertise and our energy to creating transformative change at W&J and building a just society in which together we all may truly thrive.

In Solidarity,

The Faculty of the History Department of Washington & Jefferson College