Much of the country and indeed the world have felt the reverberations of the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department on May 25, 2020. Floyd’s death has brought new urgency to the effort to challenge anti-blackness not only in the form of state violence, but also as reflected in other kinds of both formal and unofficial institutional policy and practice. The educational system to which Indiana University and the Department of Anthropology belong is one of those institutions.
Letter from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee Chair
In Spring 2020, the Department of Anthropology created the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force as part of its efforts to address these concerns. The Task Force set the groundwork for the creation of the DEI Committee. In Summer 2020, at the height of the national conversation surrounding Floyd’s deaths and those of several other African-American men and women, the Department held an open forum between faculty members and the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and other graduate students who have been especially strong drivers in addressing these concerns within the Department. The DEI Committee, composed of both faculty and graduate student members, formally began its work in Fall 2020 and declared, “Engaging in this urgent work of fighting anti-black racism fully on its own terms, the Committee also wishes to engage the diversity of experiences within the department, including Latinx, Indigenous, South Asian, Middle Eastern and Asian American, diversities of sexual orientation, nationality, class, age, and able-bodiedness, among others… The ultimate goal of Anthropology’s DEI Committee is to foster and put into sustained and meaningful practice a departmental culture of respect for diversity, equity and inclusion in their many registers.”
In implementing this mandate, the Task Force and the Committee have created several initiatives. These include regular visits by BIPOC scholars to give talks and to conduct professionalization workshops specifically for BIPOC students in the Department. The Committee has invited individual faculty members to submit their syllabi for collective discussion on how they might be “decolonized” to more fully include the perspectives of BIPOC and other scholars often marginalized within the academy. It has organized a number of events on NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act), the federal legislation on the disposition of indigenous American cultural and human remains at institutions, such as Indiana University, that receive federal funding. It has similarly organized an event on Title IX, a federal civil rights law protecting individuals in educational programs that receive federal funding from discrimination on the basis of sex. The committee also links its efforts to other relevant areas of departmental activity, such as hiring, admissions, mentorship, and curriculum planning.
In the spirit of its stated goal of fostering a sustained culture of diversity, equity and inclusion in the Department, the DEI Committee is committed to continuing these particular and other current initiatives over the long term. But as indicated by the tragic March 16, 2021 killings of eight residents of Atlanta, Georgia, including six Asian-American women, and as indicated by the many forms of social injustice that continue to afflict our society, campus and department, the DEI Committee also recognizes the evolving terms of its work in the months and years to come.