History Department Statement
George Floyd’s slow, excruciating, and brutal death on May 25, 2020 has sparked a global uprising. The UCSB History Department grieves and stands in solidarity with colleagues and students on campus and in the community, and with Black people around the world. The Floyd Uprising has, like many Black led movements in the past, launched our reckoning with racism and white supremacy in the United States and abroad. To stand is not enough. Hortense Spillers taught us that silence is a historical distortion. As historians, and as a department, we have a duty to raise our voices.
White supremacy and its violent manifestations employ readings of history to justify bloodletting. Its promulgators anchor their vision of a future in racist depictions of the past. The global history of white supremacy’s violence shapes our stories about the past and perpetuates antiblackness.
We define antiblackness as a structural and prevalent form of racism, built on the legacy of African enslavement, that legitimizes the violation of Black life and perpetuates prejudice against Blackness in diverse contexts and communities. We pledge to combat racism and antiblackness in our teaching, research, and our personal and professional lives.
Dismantling antiblackness means striking at the inequalities undergirding US history as well as confronting racism in other fields. Slavery and settler colonialism established the core financial, policing, and legal institutions of what is now the United States. Capitalism was founded on the commodification of labor, stolen land, and the accumulation and mobilization of Black bodies as private property. Academic disciplines, like history, must reckon with how the legacy of the Euro-American trade in enslaved African peoples defines the world today. Historians must challenge how institutions have imagined diverse pasts as white and how contemporary forces have used such erasures to justify violent domination.
Understanding and interrogating our racialized past has never been more urgent. We must acknowledge how disciplinary history has been founded and taken part in racism, exclusion, and erasure. We must become part of the solution. Histories of Black people, in the United States, the Americas, Africa and its diaspora, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East are still marginalized in our field and our department.
Our department commits to tackling this marginalization by:
- Hiring a historian of twentieth-century African American history at the earliest possible opportunity.
- Supporting the African Studies Initiative, a group of Black graduate and undergraduate students from History, Sociology, Film and Media Studies, and Black Studies, who have lobbied the Deans of UCSB to establish a Center for African Studies.
- Conducting an ongoing History colloquium on antiblackness and racism.
- Centering Blackness, Black lives, and antiblackness in our academic curriculum.
- Offering workshops on incorporating Black lives and addressing antiblack racism in our teaching, graduate training, mentorship, and professional practice.
- Revisiting our curricular requirements for undergraduate and graduate students to foreground courses on African, African American, and African diasporic history.
- Curating an archive of primary source materials for use in teaching, research, and promoting public understanding of the history of antiblackness and the contributions struggles against racism have and continue to make to freedom, justice, and democracy.