Amidst the justified rage over the murder of unarmed, black citizens by police, the English Department at Ball State University renews its commitment to anti-racist action.
We support the protests happening nationwide in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Dreasjon Reed, Tony McDade, and the scores of others who similarly died in extra-judicial violence in recent years. And we fervently hope that this moment of protest and commitment results in fundamental change at the local and national levels—not only to transform the very nature of policing and the justice system but also to address long-standing forces of systemic and structural racism in all spheres of American life.
Work on these transformations needs to be done by individuals and groups at all levels, beginning at home, with ourselves.
As we commit to the following anti-racist actions, we recognize that, as a predominantly white department in a historically and predominantly white institution, we are limited in our knowledge of the lived experience of racism. We consider this plan of action a necessary starting place, and at every stage we welcome feedback from our BIPOC faculty, staff, and students about ways that we can further support them and their efforts. Moreover, we commit to anti-racism not only in this moment of protest, when every organization is issuing statements proclaiming Black Lives Matter, but also for the long haul of realizing a racially equitable campus and world.
The English Department commits to the following:
- As an academic community, the English Department will take part in a collaborative inquiry into the forces of racial and other biases that persist in ourselves, our practices, and our institution.
- Department teachers will read and discuss Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist and Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. DiAngelo’s book is particularly apt given that we are a majority-white faculty. We need to come to full consciousness of the roots and consequences of whiteness and the ways in which white-supremacist ideologies may continue to structure our classrooms, our curricula, and our department.
After everyone has read the books:
- We will conduct a review of our curriculum to consider how we may further de-colonize the content we teach so as to ensure that the education we offer advances the cause of liberation for all peoples;
- Individual faculty members will engage in a self-reflection exercise in which they consider how they may further de-colonize their classroom, scholarship, and service based on these readings.
- We will have a series of “sharing out” meetings, early in Fall semester, to discuss these reflections as well as our experiences with inclusive pedagogy trainings offered in Spring, 2020. In these meetings we will generate a set of shared commitments for the future, with concrete action items, which will be brought to the faculty for an approval vote.
The department will also support the following initiatives, which are already underway:
- Faculty Learning Community on Anti-Racism and Intersectionality. Emily Rutter and Kiesha Warren-Gordon, who direct the African American Studies minor together, have proposed a Fall 2020-Spring 2021 Faculty Learning Community focused on Anti-Racism and Intersectionality. Drs. Marsha McGriff and Melinda Messineo have also agreed to co-facilitate. Through their work together, the Anti-racism and Intersectionality Faculty Learning Community we will create a toolkit of anti-racism and intersectionality resources (readings, discussion strategies, hands-on activities, among others) for the Ball State community. Once the FLC has been approved, Emily and Kiesha will invite English faculty members to join them in this year-long project to institutionalize anti-racism pedagogies.
- Anti-racism course development and student advisory council. In Spring 2020, Dr. Rutter also launched the Student Anti-Racism and Intersectionality Advisory Council (SAIAC), and they have planned a pilot anti-racism course, Understanding Race and Becoming an Anti-Racist, which will be taught in Fall 2020 in the Honors College and in Spring 2021 in the Honors College and as a special topics English/African American Studies course (ENG 299x), which will be open to all majors and minors. We hope you will encourage your students to enroll in this course. Also, we plan to propose that this course become a permanent part of the curriculum.
- Creation of Anti-Racism and Intersectionality website. The Student Anti-Racism and Intersectionality Advisory Council (SAIAC), in coordination with Dr. Warren-Gordon and Dr. Rutter, are creating an Anti-Racism and Intersectionality website and Instagram page that will be linked via the Office of Inclusive Excellence, the Honors College, the Multicultural Center, and English websites.
- Finally, the department will continue our work to diversify our faculty and student body and to support our students and colleagues of color (and of other minority status) in the ways they want to be supported. And we will continue our robust support of the African American Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies programs.