PLU Anthropology Program Statement Against Racism

The anthropology program at PLU condemns racial discrimination and white supremacy in all forms, and also condemns the tragic death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and, more locally, Manuel Ellis, among others. The protests in Tacoma and elsewhere over the past few years have drawn attention to police violence, while the Coronavirus pandemic simultaneously illuminated the deep racial inequality that continues to characterize the U.S. As a discipline, anthropology has long recognized that the concept of race is biologically baseless, and it has worked to help people better understand the social construction of race. In the words of American author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, “American notions of race are the product of racism, not the other way around” (2014).1  Anthropologists have also demonstrated how racism is embedded in institutions and structures in the United States and have highlighted the ways in which race impacts people’s lived experiences here and around the world. Like most disciplines, anthropology’s history also reflects its own racist beginnings; as members of this department, we work to do better. Some of the antiracist actions department members have been taking and that we commit to continuing in the future include:

● Decolonizing courses as we strive to ensure that our classes better reflect multiple ways of knowing and interrogate the power embedded in the construction of knowledge.
● Revising courses to include scholars and thinkers from a variety of backgrounds.
● Creating course units that directly respond to contemporary social movements, including Black Lives Matter, and help students better understand and critique manifestations of racism, xenophobia, sexism, etc.
● Working to ensure that our classes meet our students’ diverse learning needs.
● Committing to hold PLU as an institution accountable for its commitments to diversity and justice and working effectively towards that end.
● Striving to be better antiracist activists in our own communities.

We know this is a difficult time and are happy to help students process it. Please feel free to reach out to department members if you would like to talk further.

Other helpful anthropological resources include:

● The Association of Black Anthropologists’ Statement Against Police Violence and Anti-Black Racism
● Anthropologists writing on police violence, anti-black racism, white supremacy, and race and anthropology.
● The American Anthropological Association’s Race Project and the related book, Race: Are We So Different?
● Anthropologists exploring the impact of racism in Covid deaths as well as the pandemic more broadly worldwide

1 Ta-Nehisi Coates. 2014. “How Racism Invented Race in America. The Case for Reparations: A Narrative Bibliography.” The Atlantic. June 23, 2014.