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Statement on racism in response to recent events

We offer this statement pending further discussions of actions we can take in consultation with the full department – faculty, staff, and graduate students.

The faculty of the Religious Studies Department stand in solidarity with all those outraged and in pain at the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Manuel Ellis, and too many others whose murders were the result of police actions, anti-Black violence, and the product of a 400+ year history of brutality and injustice. Black lives matter. We deplore the militarization of the police, the use of deadly force by law enforcement, and the legal system that protects the perpetrators of violence.

We condemn the chronic disease of racism and the institutional inequalities that have a disproportional impact on the health and well-being of African Americans as well as Native Americans, Latinx Americans, immigrant, LGBTIQ, and other vulnerable populations. The compounding crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic challenges everyone, but it is without question a greater burden on those already most vulnerable to political, economic, and social marginalization and discrimination. We condemn as well the racism and xenophobia directed at people of Asian descent in the midst of this pandemic.

We reaffirm our commitment to work towards a just society – a commitment that begins in our own department. The mission of Religious Studies is to build knowledge and understanding of religion in all cultures and we rededicate ourselves to examining how our research, teaching, and mentorship can disrupt all forms of discrimination, white and class privilege, and be agents of change.

Even as this is our mission, we recognize that, as a department in an institution in a country that was largely built through the labor of enslaved people and people of color, it is incumbent upon us to examine the ways in which we have, consciously or not, perpetuated inequalities. The departmental culture needs to change and as faculty we can and we must do better to build a community in which every person is valued, supported, and recognized.

We acknowledge that this statement is only a beginning and that we must take concrete steps to effect lasting change. To that end, we commit ourselves to:

• Evaluate the impact of departmental demographics on departmental culture;
• Listen to the perspectives and experiences of people of color and other marginalized people in the department, when and if they choose to speak (never relying on them alone for diagnoses or cures);
• Learn about the historical and contemporary links between religion and race, and the ways in which systemic racism has shaped the United States, Stanford, and the Department of Religious Studies;
• Bring that learning to bear on our teaching, mentorship, and hiring decisions;
• Care for each other as we learn from, listen to, and grow together.

We appreciate the differential impact of these multiple crises on student, staff, and faculty work and lives. We are committed to working with every student to meet their needs and situations to accommodate challenges and ensure their continued growth. We recognize and honor our staff who anchor and build our department with so much unheralded labor.

The Department of Religious Studies and Stanford itself have a lot of work to do and we intend to do it.

Anna Bigelow
Elaine Fisher
Charlotte Fonrobert
James Gentry
Paul Harrison
John Kieschnick
Kathryn Gin Lum
Ariel Evan Mayse
Michaela Mross
Michael Penn
Barbara Pitkin
Thomas Sheehan
Brent Sockness
Lee Yearley