The recent spectacles of police brutality against Black people in America, as well as the worldwide protests that have risen up in response to them, have heightened our national awareness of how racism operates day to day in this country, and how not being racist is a choice that requires each of us to contribute in a sustained way to the work of change. In response to this moment, I have been in dialogue with the Wolf Humanities Center’s staff, advisory board, and friends to reflect on how we can more actively participate as an outwardly-facing intellectual community in the process of dismantling the structures and institutions of racism and other intersecting forms of violence and exclusion. We have been reflecting on how higher education, the humanities, and our center are implicated in racism and inequality, and we commit to the ongoing process of trying to rethink those aspects of our work that perpetuate exclusion and bias; but we also recognize that the humanities equip people with tools that can help us analyze, reflect, articulate complex thoughts, engage in critical dialogue, and change. We commit to creating opportunities to support the production and circulation of forms of knowledge that resist racism and inequality, and that help to sustain and energize BIPOC lives in all of their fullness, including but not limited to BIPOC intellectual and creative life. We invite members of our community to participate in this ongoing conversation by sharing suggestions with us of what we might do toward this goal, to submit humanities-based resources for our webpage, and to participate in the programs we offer that seek to build diverse, multi-directional, and inclusive spaces of learning with the goal of breaking down the walls that often separate universities from the cities in which they reside in counterproductive ways. Please email your suggestions. We also encourage everyone to learn from the knowledge that is generously shared through the Penn’s Center for Africana Studies and the Department of Africana Studies; The Program in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and the Alice Paul Center for Research on Gender, Sexuality, and Women; the Asian American Studies program; The Latin American and Latinx Studies Program; and the Native American and Indigenous Studies program.
To begin, we commit to the following initiatives, and we hope that you will help us in these efforts:
- Cultivate and support scholarly work that seeks to dismantle racism, including as it is embedded within humanities methods and higher educational structures. To this end, we are launching the Hershey Humanities Against Racism Fund to support anti-racist humanities education at Penn. We know that such education can take an infinite variety of forms, including but not restricted to reading groups, visiting speakers, performances, exhibitions, and scholarly projects.
- Increase the Wolf Center's support for local BIPOC-owned businesses in Philadelphia.
- Share anti-racist humanities resources on the Wolf Center's website and through our social media platforms in dialogue with faculty, students, staff, and the wider Wolf community.
- Partner with Philadelphia’s A Book a Day program to help support the provision of diverse children’s books rooted in the humanities as well as anti-racist pedagogical resources for teachers to the Henry C. Lea School and the Penn Alexander School in West Philadelphia. Click here for a list of the titles we will donate in 2020-21.
- Continue and develop new outreach and input efforts to engage more diverse communities for fellowship applications, leadership positions, and events.
- Cultivate awareness of how racism and other forms of bias operate in hiring, selection, and invitation processes and implement best practices for counteracting these biases.
- Work to raise up and include more diverse voices, including those of our staff and community members, as we generate ideas for our programs.