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ARE Statement Against Anti-Black Violence and the Persistence of Systemic Racism

We, the conveners and members of the Anthropology of Race and Ethnicity Network, as part of the European Association for Social Anthropologists, note and condemn the persistence of racism and racist violence, not only in the US, but also in Europe and elsewhere.

We write in support of the Black Lives Matter protests that have emerged in response to pervasive, ongoing everyday anti-Black racism in the US, Europe and around the world.

We commend the dethroning and removal of statues commemorating figures associated with the slave trade, the US Confederacy, and colonial atrocity. Like others, we see such forms as monuments connected to systems of White supremacy and racist oppression with which our discipline has also been historically entangled. Along these lines, we call for further scrutiny, critical re-evaluation, and forthright action regarding the constancy and commemoration of colonial legacies in public space, including through street names, statues, and other symbols and figures also linked to our discipline.

Given the persistence of the current condition, we ask: What would it take to undo White supremacy? What kinds of institutions do we need to create? What do we need to change about our interactions and relationships? What can the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oury Jalloh, William Tonou Mbobda, Edwin Ndupu, Rita Ojunge, Mitch Henriquez, Mike Ben Peter, and Adama Traore and so many others teach us? How has our discipline contributed to the conditions that have led to the loss of these people’s lives? How do we address that legacy today? In which ways are actions in our classrooms, curricular design and institutional management complicit with forms of White supremacy (e.g., through inaction, silence and dismissal)? What would it take to address the ways Whiteness gets reproduced in anthropology?

While anthropologists are often vocal against White supremacy and structural racism in their writings, they continue to reproduce Whiteness as a system of privilege in their own institutions. It is not good enough to identify with anti-racism only at an abstract level. Such identification works to manage one’s image of being pro-minority or pro-diversity while, in reality, Whiteness as a system and subject position of privilege continues to be maintained and reproduced. Anthropology has undergone waves of deep self-critique, yet it is clear that much more still needs to be done. Hiring is just one arena in which the discipline is sorely lacking. The persistently White, male-dominated composition of anthropology departments in Europe, North America and beyond is testament to the distinction between critical claims and everyday realities. How many Black faculty members are there in European and North American institutions? In which ways do structural racism and anti-Blackness persist not only in employment numbers and pay scales, but also in everyday interactions? Why do hiring committees and admissions practices continue to ignore the importance of having Black academics for the success and attainment of Black and other racialized students?

What would it mean to reformulate anthropology against White supremacy? What concrete measures must we undertake? How can anthropology claim the ability to develop rich, finegrained, nuanced and open understanding of others when it is still so deeply entrenched in colonial systems of knowledge production?

Beyond offering a platform for academic exchange, the ARE network is dedicated to institutional and systemic change. We stand with our colleagues and students in Europe, North America and beyond fighting to overcome racism in the academy, and calling on universities to rise to the challenge of instituting concrete, real change now.

In the end, we want to see the accelerated diversification of anthropology departments, BIPOC colleagues on hiring committees, and more transparent and more ethical hiring processes. We also call for hiring policies that explicitly seek out Black, Indigenous, and People of Color candidates. We note the importance of hiring Black women, including LGBTQ+ women, in particular. We also think it critical that BIPOC candidates be hired into permanent (e.g., tenure and tenure-track positions) at a pay scale that is equal to their White male colleagues and further that they be regularly considered for leadership positions within our institutions. In addition, we call for the establishment and funding of mentorship and development programs aimed at cultivating a new generation of BIPOC scholars, and the institution of ethics boards to regulate anthropological work with Indigenous and Black people.

Signed by the ARE Network