Letter of Support and Solidarity for Black Classicists

Classics and Social Justice welcomes the Women’s Classical Caucus as a co-signatory to this statement. 

Classics and Social Justice unequivocally supports #BlackLivesMatter. We strongly oppose the racism and state-sanctioned violence that unjustly target Black people, and we pledge our advocacy, as well as our resources, to support Black lives. We support protestors who are seeking justice and the end of police brutality and advocating for community-based restorative justice. We affirm the pain, grief, frustration, anger, and other emotions that our Black members, colleagues, and students are experiencing as a result of a society that does not recognize their full humanity.  We recognize that the privileges those of us who are white enjoy are afforded by the past and continuing oppression of Black communities.

We express our support as scholars and students of the ancient Mediterranean world, whose work notably pertains to the study of ancient imperialisms and the historical links between modern white supremacy, slavery, settler colonialism, and a Eurocentric, whitewashed understanding of Greece and Rome as the universally valid and inherently superior ‘Classics’. 

We recognize that our membership is predominantly white and that there are many groups in our field that are better able to represent the voices of Black classicists (including Mountaintop and Eos, among others). With that in mind, we ask our members (particularly our white members) to first listen and learn what we can do to best support our Black colleagues and to amplify Black voices. It is not the job of our Black colleagues to do the emotional and intellectual labor of educating anyone about how to be good allies. The resources are available, and it is incumbent on non-Black people to do the work of learning how to be anti-racists. One good place to start is by reading the Sportula’s statement of Solidarity: Statement of Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter – The Sportula Microgrants For Classics Students.

Actions: White silence and complicity with a racist system are unacceptable. A statement of solidarity is an important first step, but it is not enough. We therefore urge fellow non-Black classicists and Classics departments to do something concrete. Constructive, helpful actions include:  

  • Donate to organizations dedicated to supporting classicists of color such as the Sportula.
  • Create an action plan in your department with concrete steps that you will take to promote #BlackLivesMatter. Advocate for your professional organizations to do the same. 
  • Include readings by Black scholars on your syllabi, particularly Black women, and Black-Centered Resources. Do so in a non tokenizing way, and emphasize the past and ongoing contributions of Black scholars to our field.
  • Organize and conduct over the upcoming academic year a series of faculty-led workshops using Black Lives Matter’s public syllabus.
  • Leverage faculty and institutional privileges by implementing a coordinated strategy for public engagement about the entanglements between anti-Black racism and the field of Classics (op-eds, twitter threads, public lectures).
  • Work with librarians to develop resource lists, open source syllabi, or a lecture series on topics such as Classics and Blackness or Classics and White Supremacy. Engage with the work of scholars around Critical Race Theory and create opportunities for your students and colleagues to do the same. 
  • Develop and execute strategies to attract and retain faculty and graduate students from Black communities by addressing the implicit and explicit barriers to Black scholarship in our discipline and institutions.
  • Use whatever pull you have in your institutions to support Black-led efforts for institutional reform beyond the departmental scale, including opposing exploitation of low-wage employees of color, supporting Black student groups, revising racist historical narratives of the institution, increasing accountability for university or school police, and any other issues facing Black members of your campus community.
  • Amplify the work and words of your Black colleagues.
  • Show up to protests, if you are able and have done the work to be a good ally at a protest. If you are white, your body gives you greater protection by virtue of our white supremacist system of policing. When joining a protest, use the privilege and protection afforded by your white body to protect others. 
  • Donate to bail funds for people who have been arrested while protesting. Here is a list of bail funds and legal help by city.
  • Develop an accountability plan to make sure that you, your department, and your colleagues are making concrete progress toward racial justice.

Here is a much larger list of resources for Accountability and Actions for Black Lives and a list of 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice.

 

Listen to what Black people are asking and telling you to do. Any move toward racial justice, in the academy and in our society as a whole, will need to center Black voices. 

 

Additional resources:

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