English Department Commitment to Anti-Racist Practices
To our colleagues among Stetson University students, staff and faculty:
The faculty of the English Department acknowledges the pain and harm caused by racism and racist incidents in the Stetson community, especially as revealed in this summer’s “Let’s Talk Racism” virtual meetings. We recognize that as a predominantly white, Southern, private institution, Stetson University is obliged to address and correct racism on our campuses. We likewise recognize that racism affects Black people differently than other people of color, and we declare our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement to acknowledge this fact. We submit that the malicious killing of George Floyd was only one in a virtually endless series of such acts — any of which ought to have long ago instigated comprehensive social and political reforms in the United States. We assert that committing ourselves to Black Lives Matter should not and does not necessitate neglecting the many other kinds of voices marginalized for race, gender, sexuality, physical abilities or other factors.
We therefore affirm, unequivocally, that Black lives matter here at Stetson and around the world, and we commit ourselves to adopting anti-racist practices in and out of the classroom.
As the English Department, we commit to our discipline-based pedagogy to reaffirm our solidarity with Black Lives Matter. As such, we will recover Black and other marginalized voices that critique ideologies and discursive practices that enforce and extend racial inequalities, and we vow to use an anti-racist pedagogy in the classroom. Promoting civic action enlightened by such recoveries and critiques for the good of all of humanity ranks among the most important ends of the study of writing and literature. Yet the social and institutional histories of English departments in American universities are themselves fraught with racist and oppressive ideologies. The paradox of the modern American academy is that it cannot step outside itself in order to reform itself. In a real and important sense, the disciplines of English stage the difficult project of critiquing racist thought from within the categories constituted by racist thought, of reforming racist systems from within those systems.
For these reasons, the Stetson University English Department commits to
- investigating with our students and colleagues the Western construction of race from antiquity to the present,
- teaching the deep African-American roots of American literature and culture,
- interrogating and decentering Anglo-American whiteness in our profession,
- collaborating with student organizations and co-curricular programs to present literary events celebrating Black writing and thought in the English language and influential on literary culture,
- creating and maintaining an intellectual community that actively welcomes and values Black students, staff and faculty, and undertaking on a regular basis critical self-reflection on our ideas and practices,
- making sure our classrooms are safe spaces for Black students, without calling on them to represent “the race,”
- not putting an onus on Black students to correct other students’ misconceptions about race, and instead doing it ourselves,
- not calling on authority figures to settle matters of civil disobedience in our classrooms. As individuals, we commit to reflecting critically on our own personal actions and motives. We declare that this document is a living entity and can and will grow, evolve and change.
Finally, we affirm that these actions are necessary first steps in creating a more just, equitable, welcoming and supportive community, but that they are only first steps. We commit to continuing this journey, from the first step to the last.
Signed in Solidarity,
Shawnrece D. Campbell
Michele Parker Randall
Christopher D. Jimenez
Thomas J. Farrell
Nicole J. Denner
Mary Sanders Pollock
Leigh Ann Dunning
Joel B. Davis
Michael C. Barnes
David T. Johnson