English Department Commitment to Diversity and Anti-racism

The Department of English condemns anti-Black violence and racism in all of its forms. We stand in solidarity with those protesting police violence and other forms of ongoing systemic racism and white supremacy in the United States. We also recognize that anti-Black violence and racism are problems internal to our department. 

This means that our expression of solidarity requires that we interrogate our own departmental and disciplinary practices. It means that as a department, as an intellectual community, and as a set of disciplinary communities we need to do more and better. The truth is that Madison English remains a largely white department and that because of this the department has often failed to see the scale of the problem of racism in the United States and in our department, in so doing failing to adequately support staff, faculty, and students of color in our department. Even as the department claims to reject racism and has sought to recruit students and faculty of color, it has too often centered disciplinary frames, archives, and methods that prioritize whiteness. The department has too often asked our Black, Indigenous, POC, and LGBTQ+ colleagues, as well as colleagues with disabilities, to carry the burdens of diversity work without recognizing the intellectual and emotional demands that such work places on students, faculty, and staff. In short, the department has not done enough of the hard work necessary to interrogate and change institutional and habitual practices.

 To begin to do this work, we have formed an ad hoc and a standing committee whose charge includes working toward racial justice in our own department. The department is grateful to Black graduate students who have offered a set of concrete suggestions that will inform the work of these committees. Among other things, these committees and the department will interrogate curricula, the training of teachers and mentors, recruitment methods, and the history of the department and the disciplines within it. By September 2020, the ad-hoc committee will present to the department a set of recommended action items. By October 2020 the department commits to implementing two actions and by October 2021 to putting an additional two concrete changes in place. 

As we navigate the double, linked crises of anti-Black violence and Covid-19, we keep in mind that communities of color have long shown that story, poetry, song and music, rhetoric, theory, language, and other linguistic affordances are powerful tools for generating hope and for creating better worlds. We recommit ourselves and the resources available to us to fostering these positive powers of our disciplines.