Department of Art History and Archaeology's Statement on Racial Justice

The Department of Art History and Archaeology commits to developing curricula that integrate  artists of color into our courses; and to heightening awareness of how art, artists, artworld networks, and cultural monuments may contribute to marginalizing communities of color. We recognize how our own disciplinary history has contributed to this marginalization, and commit to using the tools of our discipline to analyze how racial hierarchies have been constructed, whom they serve, and how they have been maintained by art and visual culture in league with social and institutional power. We commit to analyzing how aesthetic value systems and the canons of art and visual culture are shaped not by timeless universals but by historically emergent structures of power and cultural authority, and how visual images, in turn, have the capacity to work both within and outside of established power structures to challenge the status quo and to effect change. We recognize our own privileged positions and aspire to using our voices as teachers and mentors to develop self-awareness among our students of the privileges they enjoy, and to directing the authority and influence so conferred toward the unfinished project of social and racial equality.

We further commit to using our classrooms as sites of reckoning and recognition of the racial disparities at home as well as nationally and globally. It is our responsibility to address the inequities in our region: in Ferguson, in Wellston, in North St. Louis. And we wish, along with land acknowledgements of indigenous histories, to acknowledge the many prosperous and self-supporting black communities that have been systematically undermined or destroyed over the past century – by white violence directed at East St. Louis in 1917 among many others, by infrastructural racism (airport and highway expansion), and by the segregating effects of bank redlining and gentrification. And we recognize that the wave of racism directed against Asian and Asian-American communities is only the most recent episode in a longer history that includes the destruction of St. Louis’s Chinatown that preceded Busch Stadium in 1966.

Intentions are not enough; we also commit to productively pressuring the institution within which we work to grant a safe space for Black, Native American, Asian and Asian-American, Jewish, Latinx, Muslim, and Palestinian students, and for all groups who have suffered from racism, political oppression, and ethnonationalism at home and abroad. We take the university’s commitment to free speech to heart, as extending to the protection of all groups so targeted, and to standing with them.