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Anthropology Department’s Commitment to Fight Racism

“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.” — Ijeoma Oluo


Anger over the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others has come to a boiling point.  Anger over violence perpetuated by those sworn to protect us.  Anger over deaths receiving momentary attention by the larger US and then seemingly forgotten by White America.  Anger over Colin Kaepernick bringing attention to issues of systemic inequality and injustice and then being summarily shamed and dismissed by the NFL.  Anger over issues that are occurring today but are as likely to have occurred 50 or 100 or 200 years ago.  Anger over US students being taught that slavery is over yet realizing that the passing of the 13th amendment stands in stark contrast to the lived experience of Black people in the US.


These recent murders occurred during a global pandemic, where we see Black communities hard impacted by COVID-19. Impacted because of structural inequalities and the burden of racism.


Anthropology as a discipline explains the human condition.  For decades we have described racial injustice and theorized structural violence.  We have measured and demonstrated the effects of racism on human health.  We have unearthed Civil War-era graves that were covered in attempts to erase our collective racist past.  We have written about the power of words, and how symbolic violence can be used as tools of oppression.  Anthropologists have and do work with communities to fight racism and exploitation.  But we must not forget anthropology’s complicit history.  Anthropology as a discipline is guilty of justifying racism.  Of justifying colonialism.  Of convincing ourselves that because we intellectually understand racism, that we are blameless in its perpetuation.  Now we must turn our anthropological lens on ourselves.


Greensboro serves as the backdrop for courageous protest in the 1960s and today.  In this context we must take our academic understandings and apply it to our own lives.  We recognize that we must do better as a department and as a discipline.  We recognize our places of privileges and our role in systems of oppression.  We must strive for active anti-racism.  It is no longer enough for us to sit back and describe — we must work to dismantle.


Today, we as a department assert our commitment to you, our students and to the larger Greensboro community.  We cry with you as you grieve over murder.  We stand with you as you protest against injustice.  We amplify your voices.  We also commit ourselves to doing better.  As we resume classes in the fall, we will open communication channels to listen to your needs.  In her role as liaison to the Anthropology Club, Dr. Workman will be hosting a town hall for all anthropology students so that we can learn from you.  As faculty, we will put in the work and devise concrete steps to walk this walk.


In solidarity,
The Anthropology Department

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