Statement on Public Protests & Police Brutality
The Society for the Study of Southern Literature condemns the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, David McAtee, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and too many others. We condemn the long history of brutality, extra-legal and extrajudicial violence, as well as so-called legal and judicial violence committed by those who seek to police the lives and freedom of Black individuals. We support the protests that highlight these injustices, we stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, and we call for our colleagues in academia and publishing who have not already explicitly done so to join us in this support.
In all endeavors, SSSL is committed to social equality and critical and rigorous discourse about the U.S. South. We are an anti-racist organization that contests white supremacy, including Confederate apologism and all institutions and forms of violence used to maintain racial hierarchies, inequality, and injustice. We recognize that the incidents of police violence that have instigated the current uprising — as well as the police brutality that has met protesters in cities such as Louisville and Atlanta — are not new, but are a part of the history of policing in the region and the nation. The racism and anti-Blackness that these events highlight is bound up with the histories of enslavement, Indigenous removal, lynching, segregation, voter suppression, redlining, attacks on immigration, and mass incarceration. Literature of the U.S. South is intertwined with these histories, and as literary and cultural studies scholars, we are responsible for confronting this country’s past and teaching with accuracy and honesty.
We know that racism and anti-Blackness are maintained daily through the protection and glorification of Confederate monuments and other symbols of the Confederacy. As scholars who study the literature, culture, and history of the U.S. South, we pledge to continue to educate the public about the ideologically and materially harmful effects that such symbols of white supremacy produce and the need to remove them from public spaces. We call for their immediate removal from college campuses and other institutions of higher learning as well as all public spaces.
We are an organization comprised of scholars from diverse racial, ethnic, and national backgrounds. We are committed to providing a welcoming and safe scholarly home to scholars who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color. We will not tolerate work or rhetoric that seeks to undermine the voices or devalue the scholarship of BIPOC. In the coming months, we are committed to developing concrete plans to ensure that SSSL meets the explicit needs of BIPOC scholars, students, and colleagues.
Because we study the South, we also recognize that this is not a new moment nor is it one isolated to the region we examine. As such, we are committed to working with our colleagues in other scholarly organizations to foster conversations about how these events affect our respective regions and what we can do to address these issues in our scholarly work and in our daily lives. We are dedicated to continuing to identify antiracist practices and implement them in our organization.
We join with our affiliate, the Emerging Scholars Organization, whose statement can be found here and includes their own specific recommendations, to recommit our organization to work that examines the heterogeneity of both the past and present South and that considers the borders of the region in expansive ways. Together, we support others who advocate for diversity, community, inclusivity, and equality. We are grateful to the ESO for providing concrete resources for education in their statement, and we are proud to support this important work.
Grounded in anti-racist ideology and practice, SSSL will continue its work as an organization to promote justice and social equality. It is our hope that the individual members of SSSL also will be voices for antiracism on their campuses, in their classrooms, and within their professional circles. We encourage members to hold accountable their home institutions regarding policies on campus policing in order to ensure that higher education is a safe environment for BIPOC students and workers. As scholar-teachers with educational capital, we have a responsibility — individually and collectively — to shape our university cultures and our academic field in ways that lead to dismantling systemic racism and the structures that sustain it. The Society for the Study of Southern Literature pledges to continue in this endeavor as an organization and to support its individual members in their work to this end.
Approved by the Leadership Council of the Society for the Study of Southern Literature in accordance with the bylaws on June 6, 2020.