We, the faculty of the Department of Anthropology at St. Lawrence University, condemn the ongoing police violence against Black people across the United States. The murders of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castille, and so many other Black fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and children are horrifying and heart-breaking.
We also recognize that these murders are only the most visible aspect of broader patterns of racism and structural violence that cause untold physical, social, and psychological harms to Black Americans. Mass incarceration is an assault on Black families and Black communities across the country. Unequal access to healthcare, among other consequences of structural racism, is disproportionately killing Black Americans in the COVID-19 pandemic. Voter suppression tactics are explicitly aimed at silencing Black political voices. The list is long and shameful and undermines every humane and democratic ideal that the U.S. claims to stand for.
Furthermore, we recognize that American racism against Black people is one manifestation of global White supremacy that treats violence against Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples as a natural and inevitable feature of the world. The violence of White supremacy is itself conjoined with the violence of sexism, nativism, classism, heteronormativity, ableism, and settler colonialism. The scale and brutality of these problems is so vast that we sometimes feel overwhelmed. But we take heart from and stand in solidarity with the millions who march and raise their voices in the name of the simple yet profound affirmation that Black Lives Matter.
This historic moment presents opportunities for change that must not be lost. In our small corner of the world, we renew our commitment to racial justice in our work. While we come to this work with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, each of us is committed to making St. Lawrence University a more just and equitable place. We commit to our own continuing anti-racist education. We commit to listening with open hearts and open minds to the experiences of our students and colleagues. We commit to critically examining White supremacy and other forms of oppression in our classes. We commit to featuring the work of Black, Brown, and Indigenous thinkers in our classes and in our research. We commit to supporting equity in hiring and promotion practices across the University.
We recognize that good intentions are not enough. In the United States, the discipline of anthropology was founded in large part to combat racism with science. Yet, like other academic disciplines with their roots in the Western world, anthropology has also perpetuated White supremacist power structures: by creating racist taxonomies of human diversity, by marginalizing scholars of color, and by erasing or minimizing the profound contributions of field consultants, most of whom are people of color. As professors and students of anthropology, we must reckon with this ongoing history if we are to pursue the discipline’s most humanistic ideals. Ruth Benedict wrote many years ago that “the purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences.” With hope and determination, we recommit ourselves to that purpose in all its forms.
Dr. Shinu Abraham
Dr. Wendi Haugh
Dr. Mindy Pitre
Dr. Adam Harr