The University of Colorado Denver’s Department of Anthropology is committed to inclusion and diversity in its broadest sense and strives to value all individuals regardless of national origin, race, gender, age or disability identities. Given current events, we feel it is important to firmly state our commitment to anti-racism and support the growing protest movement against police brutality, systemic racism, and white privilege and supremacy. In light of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, following the previous murders of Elijah McClain, Frank Lobato, Marvin Booker, De’Von Bailey, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tanisha Anderson --and so many named and unnamed others-- we believe it is unacceptable to remain silent. The Association for Black Anthropologists’ [ABA’s] Statement Against Police Violence and Anti-Black Racism notes that it is not enough to assert that “Black Lives Matter”--that any such claims “need to be followed up with both introspection and clear and concrete measures for redress and restitution.” In that vein, we view this as an opportune moment to review and renew our scholarly and political commitments, our commitments to our colleagues and students, and our dedication to dismantling our discipline’s complicity with racism, colonialism, and white privilege and supremacy.
The ABA has called for anthropologists to “start at ‘home,’ to accept the ways that anthropology has been and continues to be implicated in the project of white supremacy (both in its implicit and explicit manifestations) and to lay out a clear path for moving forward.” We take this call seriously and are committed to doing the work of reflection and assessment. We are proud to be part of CU Denver’s diverse, urban campus. Yet the very history of this institution attests to the intersections of higher education, racism, and settler colonialism. The establishment of CU Denver in 1976 displaced the predominantly Latinx residents of Auraria, who had strongly opposed forcible relocation. Moreover, the city of Denver itself, and its surrounding Front Range communities, were founded on land once home to the state’s indigenous peoples, themselves displaced over a century prior.
The ABA’s call also requires concrete actions to address our discipline’s history of racist science and its ongoing complicity in interlocking systems of oppression, including racism, white privilege, sexism, classism, homophobia, ableism, and settler colonialism. We commit to working each day to make BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) comfortable in our classes; in doing so, we will utilize the following measures as starting points in the ongoing work that equity and anti-racism demand.
1. Teaching and citing Black scholars, Indigenous scholars, Latinx scholars, and scholars of color. This work, as University of Oregon graduate students point out, “does not intend to propose a new foundation to anthropology but to instead look differently at the foundations that are already there” (DecanoniZine 2020, 7). To that end, we are committed to reviewing the syllabi for our core classes to ensure that we adequately represent works by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Queer scholars, and show that non-dominant perspectives are foundational to our discipline.
2. We are proud of the work we do as a department to address these issues, such as publishing in scholarly and popular venues to advocate for the rights of the homeless, of drug users, of immigrants, and of low-wage workers in Colorado and in the nation. We recommit to being mindful of the politics of our scholarship. We commit to using our research and teaching to address whiteness, white supremacy, and xenophobia in Colorado and connecting these local manifestations to global systems of power and capitalism (especially through policing and dispossession). To help broaden our commitments to include racial justice, we pledge to host invited talks by scholars on race, anti-racism, white privilege, and social justice moving forward.
3. Invest in recruiting and retaining Black, Indigenous and People of Color (students, staff and faculty) and ensuring a welcoming environment and fair workplace - most immediately by committing our next medical anthropology hire to a scholar focusing on health, the health effects of racism, and social justice.
4. Prioritize training sessions for both the Faculty and the Teaching Assistants with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to discuss course content, and best practices for discussing diversity, inclusion, and equity. Additionally, seek out opportunities to host leading Black and BIPOC experts who specialize in anti-racist and decolonial research and teaching methods. The Department of Anthropology does not conflate diversity and inclusion training with other kinds of interventions into equity.