Black Lives Matter
Dear English Majors and Graduate Students,
On behalf of the faculty and staff of the English Department, I reach out to you today to acknowledge the emotions and questions you may be experiencing in the aftermath of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. Like many of you, we, too, are struggling to make sense of these deaths and of the protests taking place across the nation, including in our own communities.
Despite being teachers and scholars of language and literature, we find ourselves coming up short with language adequate to express our feelings. But I want to take this moment to remind you of the value of the English classroom, which promotes critical thinking, self-reflection, and rhetorical analysis, all of which are critical practices in the movement for racial justice. Engaging in literary and humanistic inquiry is a powerful way to learn about the history of racial violence and inequities in our country. We know from reading Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Toni Morrison, Claudia Rankine, and countless others that the United States has a long history of discounting Black lives, and of reinforcing inequitable power structures that help perpetuate racial violence. And we also know from these writers that education is the first step in helping to create an antiracist society that actively interrogates race and racism in our daily lives and takes action to put an end to racial inequities.
What we do as humanist teachers, scholars, and students matters in this moment. We all must continue to learn, continue to grow, and continue to contribute to a more just, inclusive, and humane world. To help us do so, here are some resources we’d like to share:
- NPR’s podcast Code Switch
- Medium’s article “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice”
- Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”
- Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Classroom? And Other Conversations About Race
- Ibram Kendi’s book How to Be An Antiracist
- The National Museum of African American History and Culture web portal, “Talking About Race”
As always, if you need help or support, please reach out to Cal Poly’s Counseling Services. Please know that your English faculty are also here to support you in any way we can. We continue to uphold our humanistic values that include a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion in the curriculum and our community. As humanists, we work together for a humane, just, and peaceful world free of discrimination, where all people have value and are treated with dignity and respect.
Be good to one another.