June 16, 2020
The English department at Lehigh University wishes to express solidarity with the growing movement for racial justice in the United States and worldwide in the aftermath of the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbury, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Rayshard Brooks, and many others. We believe that Black Lives Matter.
Our interest in thinking about racial justice is not new, even as we recognize there is much work to be done in our department and our university. For more than a decade, the English department’s graduate program has been organized around a focus on Literature and Social Justice. In our Mission Statement, we say: “We believe that the study of literature, mapping the contours of what it means to be human—our aspirations and anxieties, our histories and hopes—is essential to the work of social justice. We come to know others by the stories they tell, even as we determine who we are by the stories we tell ourselves.” For too long, the story of racial injustice has been a story academics have relegated to the margins. English departments, including ours, for many years used curricula that left the experiences of people of color out.
We are committed to the following:
- Continuing to diversify our faculty and student body, recruiting and retaining students and faculty of color.
- Examining the historical representation of race and racism, including the social construction of whiteness and anti-blackness, in English-language literatures around the world, including US literatures.
- Working to amplify the importance of Black literature and media to our students, and the broader public.
- Considering race and racism as a discourse that intersects with other modes of marginalization, including those related to gender and sexuality, class, and Empire.
- Challenging the legacy of racial exclusion in English Studies that has existed for generations, including decentering whiteness from the Anglo-American literary Canon and our curriculum.
- Supporting the experiences of underrepresented minorities and first-generation students in our department and across campus, with the hope of helping all of our students complete their degrees and go on to successful careers. Concretely, we ask Lehigh to hire a counselor who specializes in supporting the experience of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students at predominantly white institutions.