On September 8, 2020 the English Department approved the following resolution, proposed by the Anti Racism Working Group.
A PDF of the resolution is available here.
- The word nigger (“N-word” from this point) conjures a blood-soaked history of the Middle Passage, slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings, coerced sterilization, Jim Crow, the abuse of the 13th Amendment to create a racially biased criminal justice system and mass incarceration, redlining, segregation, racial massacres in Tulsa, Rosewood, and Wilmington, and more violence against Black bodies in the United States than there is room to list here.
- The resulting history is one in which the “N-word” has been weaponized as a tool for systemic racism, terror, and hatred, leaving in its wake collective trauma and internalized oppression for African Americans.
- The “N-word” is inextricably linked to the history of the United States and, as such, appears in literature, film, and other cultural artifacts. For that reason, we must continue to engage with it responsibly.
- The act of uttering the “N-word” aloud in our classrooms may be interpreted as insurmountable hate speech that becomes an impediment to civil discourse, productive intellectual inquiry, and a safe learning environment.
- Especially in light of recent events and voices of protest in 2020, we believe it is finally time to take action in response to the “N-word’s” uniquely irredeemable history and harmful impact.
Therefore, to show our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and our determination to oppose systemic and institutional racism, the Department of English strongly commits to:
- Advancing anti-racist pedagogies;
- Rejecting and opposing racism and anti-Blackness wherever and whenever we find them; and
- Refraining from uttering the “N-word” aloud in our classrooms, recognizing that Black instructors--whose ancestors were subjugated and who continue to endure racist enunciations of the word--may consider whether they want to utter the word in their classrooms. If they do so, they are strongly encouraged to reflect carefully on their use of the word in discussions with students.1
This resolution will be placed in the English Department Policies repository, published on the English Department Website, shared via email with our community, shared on our social media channels, and communicated to future faculty hires.
1. This clause cites and is adapted from a passage in Ruth A. Starkman “Dropping the N-Word in College Classrooms” Inside Higher Education, July 24, 2020 (link) which reads as follows: “Out of respect for African American faculty members and students, non-Black members of the community should consider refraining from reading or writing the N-word in any of its unmitigated variations in the classroom. Black instructors, however, whose ancestors were subjugated under the N-word and whose community continues to endure racist enunciations of the slur, may consider whether they want to use the term in their classroom and, if so, they are encouraged to reflect carefully on their usage of the word with students.”