The Department of Art History is horrified by the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery by police officers and vigilantes. We grieve for their families and for our broken society. We support protestors who have the courage to stand up against oppression, injustice, and malice. As the conversation turns to systemic racism and the culture of white supremacy that have permitted these violent acts to become shockingly commonplace, we pledge to open conversations with our faculty, students, and broader community about how our own discipline has contributed to validating Eurocentrism, or the idea of Western intellectual, aesthetic, and moral superiority over other cultures. Art History was born during the heyday of European colonial expansion. The wealth of European courts was built on the genocide of indigenous peoples, the enslavement of Africans, and the exploitation of labor, including in colonies across Asia and the Middle East. The institution of the museum was founded on the plunder and abuse of non-Europeans. The #MuseumsAreNotNeutral movement has been working to decolonize pedagogical and epistemological frameworks in the public realm, and the Association for Critical Race Art History has been doing so in academia. We must acknowledge these uncomfortable truths here at Rutgers, in the courses we teach and in our public engagement.
Out of respect for our diverse student body and to work towards the creation of an egalitarian and just society, we will heed the call made by Jamaican philosopher Sylvia Wynter: “We must now collectively undertake a rewriting of knowledge as we know it.” We will begin to do so by:
- Establishing a committee for bias awareness and prevention that includes student representatives;
- Assessing our undergraduate curriculum to address disciplinary silences, historical erasures, and institutional racism and to foreground diversity, equity, and social justice;
- Remaining steadfast in our commitment to diversify the faculty and hire colleagues from historically underrepresented groups;
- Providing safe spaces for our students to express themselves and be seen and heard.
Art History must not enable a culture of white supremacy. Black lives matter.