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Department statements on anti-racism

Statement on recent racist terror in Atlanta

The Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee denounces the murder of Asians and Asian Americans by a white man in Atlanta on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. We call these actions white supremacist terror, urging Americans to take notice that non-White people will not be safe until white supremacy as an institution and as a normalized practice is dismantled. This violence should remind us all that even “model minorities” – minorities who have for some decades now been treated as exceptional due to class, education, and technocratic accomplishments – fall into the grips of hatred as white supremacy maintains an uneasy relation with anyone who is placed outside of the parameters of whiteness. Lest we forget the “yellow peril,” the slurs accompanied by genocidal violence during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the demonization and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, as well as the use and abuse of workers from China that have informed the very ways in which the U.S. continues to imagine immigration policy, the “model minority” is a fantasy that props up particular visions of race in order to continue white supremacist (including and perhaps especially anti-Black) violence. We also denounce white supremacy’s patriarchy – white supremacy as a form of patriarchy in itself – noting that this violence targeted women in particular. Women, Asian women, any woman should never be subject to the violence of (white) men’s hatred and anger and yet again, we see that this will not be possible until white supremacy is dismantled. Within the regimes of racial capitalism, where American profits and an exceptional place in geopolitical orders are products of and producers of violence against the bodies of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color within the U.S. as well as outside of it, we denounce this violence as well any attempt to erase and revise its racialized undergirding to maintain white supremacy. We stand in solidarity with Asians, Asian Americans, and non-white peoples in the U.S. who have been subject to this kind of terror for centuries. We stand in support of Asians and Asian Americans, particularly at UTK, in Knoxville, in Tennessee, and in the U.S. South, recognizing the feelings of fear and terror that they are likely experiencing.

Department Statement on Anti-Racism

By Department of Anthropology September 4, 2020

Ongoing acts of state and state-sponsored violence against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are steeped in centuries of racism, white supremacy, and racial capitalism. Anthropology is an academic discipline that has historically authorized and perpetrated colonial harms. For far too long now, anthropologists have remained complicit in our current system of violence by staying passive within the received and accepted norms of our discipline. 

From this moment forward, the University of Tennessee’s Department of Anthropology will actively work to redress harms among ourselves and in the world at large. As a community of predominantly White scholars, we have the privilege to help dismantle and rebuild this system. Therefore, the Department of Anthropology unequivocally commits to actively building a welcoming, inclusive, supportive, and equitable space for BIPOC communities. 

We must initiate this work through the reform of our own department. As steps toward building a better community within our academic department and toward fostering broader change through our programs, we commit to the following:

  • To actively recruit, retain, and recognize the value of students, staff, and faculty of color;
  • To decolonize our practices, such as:
    • introduce our students, and ourselves, to a greater number of voices and perspectives of BIPOC scholars in our course content
    • rethinking (collectively) structures of power that we shape by our participation in institutions
    • confronting the subject/object relationships (involving notions of “expertise”) within anthropological research
  • To draw on the expertise of members of our department and affiliated programs to teach and talk about issues of race, oppression, and conflict, and also seek solutions;
  • To work with our subdisciplinary societies to provide more professional opportunities for BIPOC students and professionals.

We are also committed to promoting anti-racism outside of academia. This can include:

  • Supporting organizations and movements that push for social justice;
  • Urging our fellow faculty and students to advocate for community-oriented crisis management;
  • Thinking seriously and honestly about how our own everyday practices might be complicit in systems that perpetuate anti-Black violence
    • this includes engaging in uncomfortable conversations and taking a deep look at our daily actions and inactions, what we say, and when we remain silent;
  • Encouraging participation in growing conversations on divestment and abolition;
  • Volunteering and conducting outreach projects in underserved communities;
  • Supporting BIPOC-owned businesses;
  • Being informed about local issues and political practices that impact marginalized people and actively participating (whether that be through voting, grassroots participation, or otherwise).

We recognize that a major part of anti-Black and anti-BIPOC violence is intricately related to systems that perpetuate violence against queer and trans persons, especially BIPOC queer and trans persons.

These lists are not exhaustive, and we welcome input from our community about how we can better serve Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the classroom and workplace, in our research, and in the greater community.