We in the Anthropology Department at New York University are appalled by the torture and murder of Black Americans that contributed to making 2020 a year that should never be forgotten. We stand in solidarity with those who condemn and seek to correct the legacy of racism and other forms of structural violence that have been embedded into the history of this country and its major institutions. We recognize that the deep affront to human rights and to the very humanity of Black Americans, as well as that of Indigenous Americans, People of Color, impoverished and at-risk Americans, has been at work long before 2020. We understand that anti-Black racism and white supremacy come in many forms, as micro-aggressions and as macro-aggressions, and that these acts of violence comprise a structure of power relations with deep and lasting impacts on many facets of our lives.
We in academic institutions can most effectively combat this structure of inequality, and the forms of racism, bias, and discrimination that they incite and naturalize, through a commitment to revising departmental curricula that does not simply showcase “diversity” but engenders an anti-racist pedagogy and ethos. We will do this by increasing the hiring of faculty and staff from underrepresented groups in the academy; helping to retain Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) faculty; providing a clear mechanism for addressing student, staff, and faculty grievances about racist incidences; and continuing to radically diversify the student body and actively support the academic goals of BIPOC students, to reflect the real demographics of the United States.
We acknowledge the role that the discipline of anthropology has played in supporting, deliberately or not, the legacy of Euro-colonial and postcolonial racism, genocide, and bigotry. Our goal is to continue the struggle to remove these global legacies of power and privilege from anthropology, beginning with re-constructing our curricula in the spirit of decolonizing anthropology in our own department program, in the profession, and in the discipline. We are committed to the idea that the academy is not an “ivory tower” detached from the rest of society but, rather, a product of society and thus an entity that is a part of 21st century neoliberal capitalism. Yet we recognize anthropology’s potential to accomplish our goal—through praxis, pedagogy, and discussions across all subfields of anthropology.