Our Anti-Racist Commitments

dear english students and Alumni,

We write today to condemn systemic racism and to support the global anti-racist movements spurred by the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.  As a department, we recognize that faculty and students of color have long navigated a racist system built upon and maintained by rhetorical and physical violence against their populations and upheld today by white silence. Discussing race and our country’s racist legacy has long been a matter of survival for some citizens, and a voluntary choice for others. To ensure transformative justice, white folks can no longer choose to ignore how we/they are implicated in the oppression and silencing of our/their fellow community members.  Assuming a collective “we” can flatten existing power relationships, but in this case, we have collective work to do.

Committing to anti-racism on a rhetorical level is an important starting point, but we believe there are specific anti-racist strategies we might employ at the departmental level to begin dismantling the system itself. Discussions are underway across the department to determine how we can make change collectively and concretely. This work is ongoing. These are the commitments we have come up with so far: 

  • We commit to offering a high percentage of readings by BIPOC and gender diverse authors. Working towards parity in our syllabi will amplify the voices of the oppressed, while also encouraging a relational and intersectional understanding of how BIPOC, gender diverse people, and white people navigate—and thus interpret—the world differently because of existing power relationships.
  • Over this summer we will open up conversation through a regularly occurring anti-racist email Drawing from our various research lenses, individual faculty members will illuminate and interrogate specific components of systemic racism we’ve thought a lot about, while including something for you to read, listen to, or view on the topics of structural racism and state violence. Current students: please check your MCLA emails regularly. If you are alumni, please email Office Manager Jennifer Dermady at j.dermady@mcla.edu to be included on the email digest.
  • We acknowledge that institutions of higher learning are often underscored by the very social inequities that they often seek to study and transform. We commit to evaluating and assessing how our department serves the mission of public education by engaging in individual and collective teaching practices that best uphold the communities that we serve.
  • Most importantly, we promise to listen. We encourage you to reach out with any ideas for ways we can stand together as a department.

In solidarity, your professors,

Jonah Bayer 

Caren Beilin 

Mike Birch 

Lucinda S. Bradley 

Amber Engelson 

Zack Finch 

Paula Foye 

Jill Gilbreth 

David Langston, Emeritus 

Mark D. Miller 

Kelli Newby 

Jim Niedbalski 

Hannah Noel 

Victoria Papa  

Jenna Sciuto 

Anne Zepernick