Black Lives Matter Solidarity Statement

June 27, 2020

The Department of French grieves with our world, our nation, and our university and local community following the brutal and senseless death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and too many others to name, including the nine worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. We stand in solidarity with the peaceful protests against police brutality, structural racism, and white supremacy that have caused the death of so many black people to date. 

As a faculty returning in the fall, we rededicate ourselves to concern, care, and unconditional support particularly for our students, faculty, and staff of color, including those who come to us internationally. Moving forward, we must actively strive to learn more about systemic injustices, become more attentive listeners, and then translate our knowledge into action. We recognize the need to reexamine ourselves, our discipline, our current practices, and build a department committed to anti-racist teaching and scholarship, revising not only the material we choose for our research and classes, but also our pedagogical approaches and administrative procedures.

“Racism,” Haitian author Dany Laferrière writes, “is a virus” difficult to “extricate from the body.” Starting with the slave trade, “a pandemic” of three continents—Europe, North America and Africa—racism has spread throughout the recesses of our “social body.” Four hundred years and counting. By now, Laferrière says, it has “infected nearly everyone.” He exhorts us to make a collective effort to “eradicate once and for all this virus from the human body.” In other words, it is entirely up to us. Obviously, we still have an immense amount of work to do. 

Mort pour rien. Dead for nothing. Killed for no reason: a slogan worn across the chests of protesters throughout France in response to George Floyd’s death. These French BLM protests, though covered less prominently in the U.S. news, highlight a globalization of the anti-racist movement that in each case has its own local circumstances, individuals and histories. In the French context, such protests point to structures of racial discrimination and abusive policing practices, but also to a deeper history of colonialism and racial violence that continues to roil the surface of French civic life. 

As teachers and scholars, we must commit more than ever to interrogating how race, discrimination, and inequity have permeated the very constitution of our academic field. Neither the French language nor its literature can fully be understood apart from the historical construction of race in Europe and abroad. At the same time, a robust francophone intellectual tradition of anti-racist and anti-colonial thought provides a resource for apprehending and addressing the ongoing crisis of this moment. 

The Department of French invites students of all backgrounds to find a second home in our midst as we strive to create intellectual engagement with the Francophone world writ large. To learn another language is already to pluralize the world, to practice the habit of shifting perspectives and challenging what we think we know. But we can and must do better. Please join us as we take up our work this fall, placing our present historical moment in conversation with the rich, provocative traditions of thought and creativity of the global francophone world. This ongoing effort draws us together even more urgently today. 

 

Resources: A Starter Kit