Commitment to Antiracist Action in Support of Black Lives

The English Department's statement of commitment to anti-racist action in support of Black Lives

To our undergraduate and graduate students and our staff:

We, the full-time and part-time faculty of UofL’s Department of English, stand in resolute support of the Black Lives Matter movement and all who protest against police brutality, White supremacy, systemic racism, and anti-Blackness. We recognize the transformative work of activist groups and protesters around the country who are engaged in the struggle for racial justice and are working against the violence, discrimination, and oppression that Black communities have suffered and continue to face today. Over the past weeks, a surge of rightful anger has been directed not only at police practices and systems of government but also at a wide range of institutions, including universities, that have failed to root out systemic racism and anti-Blackness within their own ranks, policies, and practices. In this moment, words alone are not sufficient; concrete actions are needed to address concrete demands. 

As a faculty, we must do all we can to ensure the safety and well-being of our Black students, colleagues, and community members. We pledge to intervene when we see moments in our classrooms, meetings, conferences, discussion boards, or students’ work that threaten them or that harm them through othering, stereotyping, or silencing.

We will also devote our resources to pedagogies and programs that contribute to the systemic change necessary to stop the violence against Black people and other minoritized groups. As we do so, we welcome critique of our own curricular and professional practices. We make the following commitments:

  • In our courses, we will advance dialogue about the ways in which U.S. society and culture have been shaped by anti-Blackness, White supremacy, and racism. This entails not simply acknowledging a limited concept of "diversity" but openly and honestly discussing these systems and how they relate to other forms of oppression, including those based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and class.

  • In our mentoring and advising of students, we commit to scrutinizing our policies and practices, as well as our own implicit biases, to attend to the needs and goals of students who are vulnerable to racism, anti-Blackness, and other systems of oppression. 

  • In our responses to our students’ writing, we will reject language ideologies and practices that perpetuate anti-Black linguistic racism or otherwise stigmatize varieties of written English. 

  • In our work at the University Writing Center, we reaffirm our dedication to antiracist education and self-education. We must continue to listen to and work with the voices of those who have experienced or are vulnerable to racism, anti-Blackness, and other forms of oppression. We recognize our responsibility to educate ourselves about systems of power and inequality and commit to critiquing and speaking out against individual and structural oppression in an effort to create a safer, more just university for all students.(Read more about the Writing Center’s statement on anti-racism here.)

  • In the composition and dual credit composition program, we will prepare our teachers in anti-racist course design and instruction, and we will encourage our students to research and write about issues connected to systems of oppression, including those based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and class. We will actively recruit Black students to enroll in our dual credit courses in the high schools and also encourage high school counselors to recruit Black students.

  • In our conferences, reading series, and community partnerships, we will amplify the voices of Black writers and scholars through our speaker invitations and collaborations. At events, we pledge to employ Black-owned businesses in Louisville whenever possible.

  • In our administrative structures, we commit to reconvening the Diversity and Retention Committee and making it a standing committee that reports annually and publicly. Given the predominantly White composition of the department, the committee will advocate for new urgency in the department’s ongoing efforts to hire significantly more BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color) faculty and improve our recruitment and retention of BIPOC faculty and undergraduate and graduate students. 

This plan is just a first step. We resolve to continue to educate ourselves and to sustain our commitment to anti-racism beyond this galvanizing moment through continual reflection, conversation, and action.