In light of the events that are sweeping the nation, the English Department at UNC Charlotte stands in solidarity with our institutional partners in condemning the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and so many others. While denouncing these killings, we also acknowledge them to be only recent incidents in a long history of systemic brutality against African Americans fueled by the white privilege and white supremacy that have shaped all aspects of life in the United States. In addition, we grieve not only the loss of these lives but also all those losses that remain unseen or, in so many cases, are hidden in plain sight. As members of a humanities department, we recognize this endemic violence to be a centuries-old problem in desperate need of a solution, and we condemn the dehumanization that it inflicts.
We also identify institutional complicity in and endorsement of systemic racism and inequality as additional silences and erasures that have informed our discipline and that we must address. Social justice, compassion, respect, curiosity, and historical awareness are at the core of what we do, and it is now more than ever that we seek to uphold these principles in the interest of our community, our region, our country, and our planet. As scholars, educators, colleagues, and citizens, we commit to generate a nuanced understanding of African American literature, history, culture, and arts in our content and curriculum. We also pledge to educate ourselves on the experiences of African Americans and their basic demand to live their lives peacefully without having to face intolerance, scorn, or violence.
As a department, we also acknowledge how African American communities enact a tenacious commitment to knowledge, hope, creativity, democracy, and the common good. So that we can best support the African American faculty, staff, and students amongst us, we propose a number of potential action steps. These steps include:
- Organize annual anti-racist presentations / workshops specifically geared to white faculty, staff, and students.
- Create a departmental interdisciplinary bibliography on the history and experiences of African Americans for students, faculty, and staff. Include materials on mentoring students, faculty, and staff of color.
- Continue to recruit faculty and staff of color. Explicitly seek out, in addition, applications by individuals from working-class / first-generation college backgrounds, LGBTQ+ people, religious minorities, and non-native born scholars.
- Collaborate with other CLAS departments and units on an annual interdisciplinary speakers series centered on African American history, experience, and scholarship.
- Hire skilled, outside facilitators to present workshops on curriculum transformation and intersectional pedagogy.