Statement from the Office of the Chair in Support of Black Lives Matter

Thursday, June 11, 2020 - 1:11pm
Heather Thornton
Statement from the Office of the Chair in Support of Black Lives Matter

As events have unfolded in recent weeks both in the US and here at home, we have felt horror and disgust at the way our legal and policing systems have been structured to oppress Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.  We stand in solidarity with the BIPOC members of our own community, with BIPOC everywhere, and condemn the systems of state-sanctioned violence against BIPOC here in Canada and elsewhere.

But these systems and their violence are not new.  Why is it only now – after yet another unspeakably horrific murder and widespread protests – that we are starting to confront this problem, to make this very statement?  Only now, finally feeling real tension and real discomfort – which our BIPOC colleagues and friends have experienced their whole lives -- are we perhaps ready to examine our own roles in these systems of oppression, to correct our course, to begin to dismantle those systems. 

As humanities scholars, we are committed to examining our own disciplines and the canon of scholarship that supports them, to expose the silencing of non-white voices, and to work towards a scholarship that makes space for all.  The humanities in particular have an important role to play here, and we in the Department of Historical Studies are committed to playing our part, however uncomfortable that may be.

As a teaching enterprise we are committed to ensuring that our pedagogies make space for BIPOC students and their perspectives and voices, and that they do not replay histories of oppression that have persisted in academia.  Such an examination of our own practice is difficult and uncomfortable but necessary and overdue.

As a workplace, we are committed to ensuring that our own structures and systems make space for all, and do not oppress, marginalize, or inflict violence on our BIPOC colleagues.  When we are hiring new colleagues, assessing and promoting colleagues, and working together, we must support each other to ensure that BIPOC colleagues can flourish in what has heretofore been a very white space.  Doing this will require an uncomfortable examination of our hiring practices, our armatures for performance assessment, and our administrative procedures; however we need to make ourselves uncomfortable if we are to fix this world. We are committed to doing our part.