The English department at Trinity College believes Black Lives Matter. We believe that the lives of Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Elijah McClain matter, as do the lives of countless named and unnamed Black people who have been subjected to police violence and other forms of oppression.
This statement of solidarity is not separate from our work as teachers, scholars, and writers because we do not understand literature as a respite or escape from the world around us. Literature does not only reflect the culture and historical context in which it was created. It creates cultures, facilitates change, and contests old norms. But it can also deride cultures, resist change, and mourn bygone norms.
Writers have long rationalized and aestheticized anti-Blackness. The discipline of English routinely frames literature by racialized and colonized writers as marginal rather than central, supplementary rather than essential. Still we believe in the power of literature to unite diverse readers, to model debate, to inspire struggle and collective action. We do not suppose that any text captures a universal human experience detached from the particularities of race, class, gender, or geographical location, but we are united in the shared experience of having had our worlds radically and sometimes painfully expanded by reading a book. Our experience has taught us that the literature classroom is a powerful space of intellectual growth for teachers and students alike.
As educators, we believe it is our job to challenge the anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, and anti-Brown foundations of our discipline and our institutions. To that end, the Trinity College English Department commits to a three-year process of serious self-study and change. We need to examine the essential components of what we do:
- the staff we hire
- the courses we offer
- the requirements of our major and minor
- the communities we create in our classrooms.
In this period of examination and reform, we want to be guided not only by the knowledge and values we have developed as scholars and teachers. We also need the input of you, our students, who have unique and important lessons to teach us about our department and our field. As a start, we invite you to share your thoughts by completing the survey you recently received via email (and if you didn’t receive it, simply write to firstname.lastname@example.org).
This semester, we intend to listen to you, inside and outside our classrooms, and learn from your ideas about how to make the English department at Trinity College as inclusive as it can be. This is hard and necessary work that requires commitment from each of us. Let’s move forward together as a community, united by the principles of racial justice and equity. By springtime, we will update you on our next steps, which will be guided by our thinking and yours.