June 5, 2020

Statement on Anti-Black Racism

Statement from Arts Dean Richard Sigurdson

I know that I speak for the whole Faculty of Arts when I say that we condemn anti-Black racism, and racism and prejudice in all forms. We stand in solidarity with our Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) faculty, staff, alumni, students and families. We commit to being reliable, authentic allies in the drive to build equity and inclusion and to address the underlying social injustices that continue to plague our society.

Since first watching the news footage of the excruciating death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, I’ve felt saddened, outraged and also remorseful about my own inaction in the face of pervasive, systemic racism and racial discrimination. Coming at a time when I was already worried and anxious about the impact of COVID-19, these events have left me raw and uncentred.

The violent deaths of so many Black men and women in the United States has garnered media attention around the world. But we are certainly not immune to anti-Black racism here in Canada, nor to the systemic racism that has for so long inflicted pain and trauma on Indigenous peoples. Racialized and vulnerable populations have suffered disproportionately during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also led to racist acts perpetrated against Chinese and Asian Canadians.

It is not surprising that the killing of Mr. Floyd and others has led to large, throbbing protests in cities across North America and around the world – including here in Calgary. Though denounced by some, these demonstrations are actually a hopeful sign that our communities are not going to stand for this hatred and abuse any longer. People are taking action.

In the Faculty of Arts, we need to take action, too – individually and collectively.

As individuals we need to take stock of our own privilege and implicit biases. I commit to do more work on this myself. We need to appreciate the impact of racism on BIPOC colleagues, students and community partners, and to identify and work to eliminate systemic discrimination in our disciplinary and administrative practices.

Given the current crisis, non-Black academics have an obligation to support Black students, colleagues and neighbours who are suffering pain and anguish right now. There is a lot of great material out there that can be helpful. I particularly learned from Stacy Ault’s article, “10 Ways for Non-Black Academics to Value Black Lives.”

Collectively, we must commit to actions directed at dismantling structural racism in the academy. In our Faculty of Arts Strategic Plan, 2017-2022, Energizing Arts, we articulated our values of citizenship, diversity, equity and inclusion and pledged to weave them into the fabric of our research, academic programs, student experience and community relationships. We have to step up to that challenge, redoubling our efforts.

Through the leadership of our Equity and Diversity Committee – and energized by the active involvement of our faculty, staff, students and alumni – we will advance our goals of decolonizing our academic programs and dismantling the systemic racism in our academy.

I know this is hard work. And I know that many in our community are struggling. To those of you who are feeling overwhelmed, the University of Calgary has resources available to help our students, faculty and staff.

As we go along this journey of awareness, a crucial step for me is to listen and learn. In that regard, your input is critical. I encourage you to send any comments, ideas or concerns to me directly. Together, let’s take action against anti-Black racism and all racial discrimination.