Black Lives Matter: Statement from the Department of Classics

Author: Department of Classics
July 17, 2020

All lives cannot matter until Black lives matter. We in the Department of Classics at San Francisco State University bear witness to the pain, grief, rage, and exhaustion resulting from the systematic violence against and murder of Black people in this country, and we commit to taking action against the systemic racism that pervades our academic institutions.

The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks is a call for such action. As scholars of an often fragmentary past, we acknowledge that these few names represent only a fraction of those who have suffered, and continue to suffer, institutional and systemic violence, racism, oppression, and white supremacy, and whose names and stories remain resolutely and intentionally silenced and effaced.

Those of us who participate in and sustain our chosen discipline must actively investigate how the Greek and Roman past has been a complicit partner in elitism, and how it has been weaponized to normalize systems of oppression and imperialism, to reinforce exclusivity, and to promote Eurocentrism and whiteness. We must collectively work against the use of texts and artefacts to legitimize these systems of oppression and exclusion. We must use the past to craft a more just present and future.

This is our responsibility and we commit to doing more to promote diverse and equitable representation in the field and in our department, especially among Black students and scholars. Our actions to this end include, but are not limited to:

  • Creating a scholarship fund to support BIPOC Classics students
  • Outreach to, and recruitment and retention of, BIPOC students in alignment with the diverse students, staff, and faculty at San Francisco State
  • Actively addressing constructions of race and power in Classical antiquity and the continuum of those structures today in our courses
  • Active inclusion of BIPOC scholars in our course bibliographies
  • Active inclusion of BIPOC scholars in our research
  • Equitable and inclusive BIPOC representation in future hires of faculty, staff, and student workers
  • Using our invited lectures as a platform for BIPOC scholarly voices
  • Actively supporting CSU Bill AB-1460, which proposes an Ethnic Studies graduation requirement

In making these changes, we draw on the wisdom of these excellent resources and encourage others to as well:

And for those who are eligible and seek change from within the system be sure to vote.