A Statement on Anti-Racism from the Department of English

Posted on Thursday, September 10, 2020

A Statement on Anti-Racism from the Department of English

Since the brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, we have watched with awe and hope as protest movements throughout the United States, here in Canada, and across the globe have begun to effect real change against racial injustice. We recognize that such injustice is not confined to the United States: a documented history of systemic racism within Canadian police forces, the historical and ongoing oppression of Indigenous peoples in Canada, and the harassment of Black students by campus security at our own university are just three examples of how pervasive systemic racism operates within our country. The University of Ottawa, located on the ancestral, unceded land of the Algonquin Nation, has acknowledged that systemic racism manifests not only in deplorable acts of violence, but in the kinds of inequalities and exclusions that can and should be addressed within academic institutions.

As a department, we recognize that all of us can and must do better. When we say that Black lives matter, we recognize that these words must refer not only to the starkest and most deadly evidence of racial discrimination—the lives lost to police brutality and other forms of institutionalized violence—but to the myriad ways that Black lives, Indigenous lives, and the lives of other racialized individuals are made to matter less, or not at all, within academic institutions and academic discourses. The literature we teach, the voices we privilege in our classrooms and in our scholarship, the composition of our faculty: these all play a role in the structures of systemic racism that have long defined who “belongs” and who does not belong within the academy. We therefore commit to undertake a careful examination of our own departmental culture, and will create a working group to research best practices in making anti-racism a part of our pedagogy and scholarship, to draft a set of principles and guidelines based on this research, and to organize anti-racism training and other relevant activities. Only through practical steps and concrete actions can we work together to build a department and a university that places genuinely equal value on the lives, the voices, the experiences, and the scholarship of Black, Indigenous, and other racialized individuals.

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