Recent events on St. Olaf’s campus and elsewhere have once again put into sharp relief the ways in which racism is–and always has been–woven into the fabric of American society.
From 1492 and 1619 to Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, racial violence has pervaded American history. And, too often, that physical violence and the trauma following it has been exacerbated by the way historians approach those topics. To be clear: the discipline of history has often been complicit in naturalizing, fostering, and promoting racialized power structures, both in the United States and across the globe. At the same time, we believe that the tools and methodologies of history are powerful mechanisms for dismantling celebratory narratives that reify and uphold systems of oppression. It is in that spirit that we draft this statement of commitment to racial justice and lay out concrete plans for our role as historians in this work.
The faculty and staff of the St. Olaf History Department recognize and applaud the ongoing efforts of the student body to push for real change both on the Hill and beyond it. As we move forward as both members of the History Department and the larger St. Olaf community, we pledge to:
*Listen. We welcome thoughts, suggestions, and feedback, particularly from BIPOC students, on how the History department can directly address issues of inequity and representation in our curriculum, classrooms, events, and department. Please add your thoughts using this anonymous Google Form.
*Provide space in our classrooms to analyze critically racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and other ideologies and practices of hate which serve to marginalize underrepresented groups and reinforce existing power structures;
*Provide our students with the historical context and analytical tools to help them understand the development and inner-workings of those power structures;
*Offer courses which treat issues of social justice as central to the workings of history rather than a footnote to Eurocentric triumphalism;
*Support and advocate for BIPOC faculty, both in the History Department and across the College.
To express our commitment to these objectives, we are investing resources to host a number of speakers this academic year in a new series called “History 360”. The goal of this series is to publicize the diversity of work being done by historians while demonstrating that history as a discipline is committed to having challenging, forward-looking conversations about issues of power, identity, and inequality. We will host our first speaker on October 21st at 7:00 pm. Dr. Judy Wu will speak on Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color in Congress. Please watch for announcements.
Thank you for your time and your suggestions.
The Faculty of the History Department