Department Statement and Commitment to Anti-Racist Action
June 15, 2020
February 23, 2020 – Ahmaud Arbery
March 13, 2020 – Breonna Taylor
April 18, 2020 – Steven Demarco Taylor
May 25, 2020 – George Floyd
May 29, 2020 – Calvin Horton, Jr.
June 3, 2020 – James Scurlock
June 12, 2020 – Rayshard Brooks
And hundreds more, in 2020 alone.
Historians recognize the importance of dates and significant dates that mark an exceptional historical moment. Yet, when we list the death dates of Black people killed so violently this year, we do so to highlight the horrifyingly ordinary nature of Black people’s death at the hands of the state and of individuals. As a Department of History, as Americans, as human beings weary of inequality (especially racial inequality), of the over-policing of African Americans, of vigilantism, and of violence, we choose to say the names of a few of those who lost their lives this year. The men and women noted above did not deserve the tragedy of their deaths. Since late May 2020, Americans and other global citizens have taken to the streets to protest police brutality that happens disproportionately against citizens of color. They are armed with the knowledge of their constitutional right to assemble and protest. They also bring with them a righteous anger forged in the marrow of this country that came to being out of revolution, and the historical injustices that framed its narrative.
We understand that these most recent protests are not exceptional to our country, as they are eerily familiar. Is 2020 1992 again (Rodney King), or is it perhaps 1968 (MLK assassination uprisings)? We remain cautiously hopeful that the country will be able to come together to eradicate anti-Blackness, discrimination of all sorts, and grapple with the duplicity of a nation that is allegedly colorblind. Yet, much of the gaps that exist between African Americans and white Americans economically, politically, socially, and medically are determined by long-standing structures of inequality that have been allowed to germinate and reproduce in a crushing cycle that serves no one. With this backdrop in mind, the Department of History stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement in its quest to affirm the ideals that our faculty upholds.
There are many institutions that spring from this country’s colonial origins that are older than American democracy, namely slavery and systemic racism. The Department of History is well-positioned to teach the long historical narrative of violence and inequality that has defined the experiences of people of color throughout the country and in the state of Nebraska. We recognize the American Revolution’s imperfect promises of freedom. However, we must do more than teach. We must commit to anti-racist actions and advocate for anti-racist policies that will strengthen our university and our engagement with UNL students, staff, and faculty —many of whom come from marginalized communities, combating racism and other forms of inequity and discrimination daily. How do we, as scholars who study and write about the past, work to dismantle the vestiges of this past that was rooted in inequity? How does a cohort of historians harness our collective energy to address this society’s ills while working within a system that has deep flaws? We do so through action items that reflect the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s mission that all are welcome here:
- To work on building networks and bodies that participate in promoting racial diversity and inclusion from an institutional framework.
- To devise a curriculum that addresses the histories of marginalized peoples that students take at each level of their collegiate career.
- To work with the Institute of Ethnic Studies, to engage in dialogues with faculty of color, and to build a coalition that advocates for systemic change through policy initiatives.
- To work with the University to hire more faculty of color (in and outside of joint-appointments) in our department and across the university.
- To work hard to retain faculty of color and dismantle structural barriers to their promotion and tenure.
- To recruit and support students of color at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
- To recognize the ableist, racist, sexist, xenophobic, and queer-phobic nature of student evaluations on underrepresented faculty.
- To dismantle unfair structural barriers around fellowships that could allow women, trans and non-binary people, indigenous people, and faculty of color to have time to develop their scholarship even if they are not from rarified and elite organizations.
- To work with donors and others to create more economic opportunities for students of color to study history.
Signed and approved by
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of History Faculty, Executive Committee, and Chair