The Department of English at Indiana University Bloomington, expresses our solidarity with the family and communities of George Floyd, murdered in Minneapolis on May 25. His killing follows those of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, VonDerrit Myers, Jr., Michael Brown, and so many others. We mourn their deaths. We affirm that Black Lives Matter. We speak out in support of Black communities, in the current crisis and always.
The mission of the Department of English commits all of its members — as scholars, writers, teachers, and members of various communities — to an unwavering affirmation of diversity; a staunch desire to foster a sense of belonging, especially for people who have been marginalized historically and continue to be. Justice exists only if it exists for all people. Thus, we condemn racism against Black people. We condemn all racism against all groups and persons and absolutely oppose the many kinds of violence done to people of color and to all oppressed groups in America and around the world.
We demonstrate our commitments to anti-racism in our work as teachers of African American, Latinx, and Asian American Literature; of Critical Race, Postcolonial, Feminist, and Queer theories; of rhetoric and writing in various modes, from poems to stories to essays. We teach, write, speak, and act in the service of expanding equity, access, and cooperation. We believe that the study of past oppression can bolster resistance to contemporary injustice, that the most subtle art can speak the most profound truths to power, and that, as W. E. B. Du Bois reminded us, criticism is the soul of democracy. We express these commitments with humility because we recognize that, as members of the Indiana University community, we are complicit in a power structure that privileges whiteness. We know how challenging it will prove to eradicate racism from American life, but we accept that challenge.
Our dedication, as a department, to the study of language in its most public forms invites us to speak, as does the commitment, expressed in our diversity statement, “to develop an inclusive academic culture in which diversity is not the responsibility of a few or celebrated only at isolated events, but the coordinated, shared, and collective responsibility of the entire departmental community, including faculty at all ranks, staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students.” Silence normalizes oppression, racial bias, and state-sanctioned murder, and as a community devoted to the power of expression, we resolve not to be silent.
We will continue to emphasize pedagogy that supports and values diversity, both in our teaching and in our training of teachers. We will expand our support of anti-racist initiatives within the College of Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with other departments, and across the campus. When we are able again to invite visiting scholars to campus, we will prioritize those whose work is informed by anti-racism. But most importantly, we will expand our opportunities, as a whole department, to engage in the most difficult, fundamental, and neglected practice of listening, not just to visiting experts but to people of color and other marginalized communities within the university and its environs. We resolve to act, individually and collectively, on what we learn.
Our professional and disciplinary associations offer support and guidance for anti-racist work within and across our disciplines. Those can be found here:
- MLA Statement Deploring Systemic Racism
- NCTE Statement on Anti-Racism to Support Teaching and Learning
- CCCC Statement on Students’ Right to their Own Language
- NCA Officer Letter in Solidarity and Sympathy
The liberal arts tradition is animated by a hope that through critical engagement with the discourses of others, students and teachers can unencumber themselves from the constraints and limitations of the status quo. Anti-racist teaching and scholarship are a crucial expression of this hope, and, as a department of English, we renew our commitment to them.