Anthropology Department Statement on Race and Anti-Racism

We, the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh, condemn the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and locally, Antwon Rose II, among a multitude of Black lives that have been lost to racist and state-sanctioned violence in the form of police brutality. Their deaths have further galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement and have broadened societal awareness of the violence, racism and discrimination that Black members of our society continue to suffer every day. In solidarity with the millions of protesters across the United States and the world, we wish to seize this watershed moment to listen, learn, and loudly and forcefully demand and fight for change. We, the faculty, students, and staff in the Department of Anthropology, affirm our commitment to diversity and social justice; to ending racist violence and discrimination; to destroying the ideologies of white supremacy and white nationalism; and to transforming our institutions by eliminating systemic racism and implicit bias.  As many protest signs read, “Silence is Compliance.”

The necessary change begins with a clear awareness of our discipline’s past, present and future. The founding of anthropology as a discipline was shamefully entangled with the pseudoscientific justification of racism, colonialism, and eugenics. Yet anthropology has also engaged with deep criticisms of racism and inequality in many parts of the world. This discipline’s scholars and critical activists have much to say about the violence of racism and discrimination – in education, medical care, in housing opportunities, in heritage legacies and narratives about the past, and everywhere in daily life. Many anthropologists, especially anthropologists of color, talk and write about the racism, grounded on slavery and settler colonialism, that is deeply embedded in the foundation stones of the United States, and in white supremacy – both overt and more subtle – that is enmeshed in our social institutions. Despite our origins, we as a field are well-placed to recognize and fight racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and all forms of discrimination.      

The necessary change begins at home and extends outwards. It is essential that we work to understand and condemn racism in our community, but it is also urgent that we diversify our faculty and students. Twenty-five years ago, 90 percent of our permanent faculty were white men, and over the years we gradually brought in women. We cannot wait another quarter of a century to build a department that better reflects the society it seeks to educate. We must increase diversity, inclusion, and equity in our department. This will require continued efforts from our department and university community, and a steady focus on the critical importance of building and welcoming diversity among our faculty, staff, and students. Implicit bias training is not enough. We need sustained action. Our Department affirms the importance of teaching and writing to promote anti-racism, listening to and citing Black voices in and outside academia, engaging with communities of color in Pittsburgh, recognizing and addressing discriminatory practices within the university, and increasing diversity and equity within our department.