Statement on Racial Injustice
We support and stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, friends, families, and neighbors at the university and in our nation. With great respect, we say the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Tamir Rice, Atatiana Jefferson, and Eric Garner, among the many Black people who have lost their lives to white supremacism and to police violence. We also say the names of Stephen Lawrence and other Black people worldwide who have and continue to suffer systemic inequalities and the effects of racism. We honor the memory of the sixty million and more enslaved in the Atlantic slave trade.
As educators at the University of Arkansas our research, teaching, and service has benefited from the work of our Black community members who have brought about equal educational access. Jessie Bryant improved well-being in our city of Fayetteville by starting the city’s first free health and dental centers and first Black daycare center. Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls, the first Black students at Central High School in Little Rock, held the Constitution accountable and made desegregated education a reality. Silas Hunt broke barriers in higher education as the University of Arkansas’ first Black student to be admitted to the law school. Our departmental mission to educate and promote anthropological knowledge for all students builds on the achievements of these and other Black community members.
Our department must continue to address anthropology’s colonial entanglement with racism and its historic and continuing involvement in the creation of hierarchies of race and the disenfranchisement of Black people. As much as we teach our students how to critique false ideas that race is biological, and instead explain how race has been socially constructed through economics, law, religion, and gender, we also know that our teachings and statements alone are not enough. We, our communities, and political leaders must continue to listen to and realize the antiracist demands of Black people in our nation and around the world.
We commit to an anthropology that demonstrates there are no genetic or biological markers for race, uncovers the historical foundations of modern inequities, and bears witness to how Black lives matter beyond the systems of oppression that subjugate them. As a department we pledge to make antiracist resources available to our community, offer classes and hold community forums to meaningfully discuss inequality, and work to dismantle white supremacist structures endemic to higher education. These goals have ever more urgency amidst the contemporary crisis of the covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing corrosive effects of everyday racism.
Beyond anthropology, universities in this country are the product of the displacement and genocide of indigenous peoples and have historically profited from the labor of Black and brown populations. Thus, it is the responsibility of all university officials to acknowledge the historic and current realities of the disenfranchisement of Black people, Indigenous (including Black-Indigenous) people, and non-Black People of Color. It is imperative that the University of Arkansas bridge the education gap and improve health and economic well-being in Arkansas by expanding educational and scholarship opportunities for students of color, committing to an antiracist learning environment through the accessibility and naming of its institutional spaces, and promoting civic engagement and partnerships between underserved communities and our university. We call on the University to take the steps necessary to repair the relationship between Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and our university as an institution.