Anthropology statement on Black Lives Matter, racism and inequality

The faculty of the Department of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis strongly affirm that Black Lives Matter, we stand with those seeking to change systems rooted in racism and discrimination, and we support the protesting of the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, and many others. We support the statement released by the Association of Black Anthropologists (ABA) that posits that these deaths are the product of white supremacy and anti-Black systemic racism in our country. We recognize not only our role in creating and maintaining these systems, but our responsibility in abolishing systems of inequality.

We commit to:

  • acknowledging the intersectionality of race, gender, sexuality, and other forms of identity and creating an inclusive environmental for all.
  • recognizing the disproportionate impact of current events on members of our community who are Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC), listening to those community members, and providing a safe platform for discussions of those and other issues.
  • reviewing the departmental policies, manuals, and handbooks to identify areas that are based on white normativity and that force BIPOC to assimilate. We will then make the necessary changes at the department level and advocate for changes to university-wide policies that perpetrate discrimination.
  • clearly identifying the mechanisms available for all members of our department to report bias incidents, including listing this information on our departmental website.
  • acknowledging the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and other global health issues on BIPOC students, faculty, and staff and having conversations about the additional considerations for members of these communities.
  • prioritizing the recruitment of BIPOC faculty, postdocs, staff, and students, ensuring that we are making every effort to engage with and market in areas where there is a presence in the Black community. This effort includes advertising and recruiting in places such as HBCUs and diversity-focused outlets, listservs, associations, symposiums and events, and local venues and organizations such as the St. Louis American, the Urban League, WUSTL Black Student Union, WUSTL American Indian Student Association, WUSTL Black Alumni Association, Black fraternities and sororities, and Black professional organization. 
  • creating resources and identifying funding opportunities to support BIPOC students to attend conferences and apply to graduate school.
  • decolonizing our syllabi by including readings by non-white and non-U.S. scholars. As recommended by the Association of Black Anthropologists Statement Against Police Violence and Anti-Black Racism, we commit “to teach race, racism, the pathology of whiteness, and the banality of white supremacy” as the curricular scope of our courses allows and to work to end the “marginalization of Black scholars and their scholarship”.
  • identifying areas of our work that can inform the current movement of racial justice and then using our work to fight against systemic racism and to dismantle the systems that harm Black people at the university, local, national, and global levels.
  • actively recruiting BIPOC graduate students. 
  • organizing at least one department-wide colloquium each semester that either features an invited speaker who is a BIPOC scholar or addresses issues of racism.
  • supporting the purchase of and access to writings by BIPOC, including encouraging the library to purchase books by Black scholars and subscriptions to journals that highlight this work. A list of recent books by Black Anthropologists that is regularly updated can be found here:
  • encouraging BIPOC students to participate in anthropology research and helping to identify funding opportunities, such as the Office of Undergraduate Research, the Gephardt Institute, or the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) in ways that actually address the barriers to participating in these types of opportunities and prioritizing students of color for work study positions in the department.  Again, emphasize advertising and recruiting efforts in places where they will be seen by Black students, including the WUSTL Association of Black Students.
  • applying pressure to WashU administrators (and soliciting support from other departments to apply this pressure) to expand mental health services with qualified professionals who have lived experiences as Black people and provide other resources specific to BIPOC student experiences.
  • writing to Chancellor Martin to insist that WUPD immediately change its policies in accordance with the #8CANTWAIT campaign, M4BLs (Movement for Black Lives), or similar police reform campaigns and begin planning to replace WUPD with appropriate first responders for the health, safety, and well-being of our campus community. 
  • advocating for WashU administrators to use the influence of WashU to encourage STL city and county police forces to adopt the same reform policies referenced above and begin defunding the police and investing in more effective first responders.  
  • reviewing, amending, and providing progress updates on these goals once a year.

We know that words alone will not make a difference. We commit to action and to listening. We commit to hearing instead of defending. 

Tristram R. Kidder, Chair, for the Department of Anthropology

Helpful resources: