White nationalists have been emboldened by the racist and xenophobic demagoguery emanating from within and beyond the White House. The Executive Committee of the American Studies Association stands in support of all who have been targeted and affected by white supremacist terrorism. Reasserting our commitment to a culture of freedom, solidarity, and justice, we urge our colleagues to seek effective, collective ways to work with those who are most vulnerable to violence and intimidation.
We denounce both the recent wave of white supremacist terrorism and those persons in leadership who refuse to take effective measures to stop it. At this pivotal moment, we must be more than witnesses to history. The United Nations Genocide Convention condemns not only those who carry out genocide but also those who publicly incite and are complicit in genocide. Upholding international law thus requires that we expose and address the deadly consequences of racist state culture and rhetoric.
While it is necessary and proper to investigate the specific circumstances surrounding the tragic shootings that occurred in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton, the broader trend is clear and alarming. Scholars at the University of North Texas have “found that counties that had hosted a 2016 Trump campaign rally saw a 226 percent increase in reported hate crimes over comparable counties that did not host such a rally.” Trump’s recent rallies in El Paso (February 2019) and Cincinnati (July 2019) have made clear that attacks on immigrants and people of color will be the centerpiece of his 2020 campaign. Chants like “Send her back!” and “Shoot them!” epitomize the campaign to delegitimize duly-elected Congresswomen of color and dehumanize asylum seekers.
The double standard of justice in this country could not be more evident. While the administration has acted to ban Muslims, cage Latinx children, and stigmatize majority nonwhite cities, it has ignored actual threats to public safety. The right wing’s sanctimonious defense of gun culture affords violent white men the rights of life, liberty, and property that have been repeatedly denied to law-abiding Black men and boys. We cannot forget that in the so-called open carry state of Ohio, Tamir Rice was killed by the police for carrying a toy gun, and John Crawford was similarly gunned down in a Walmart just outside of Dayton.
White nationalism did not begin in 2016, and it will not end when Trump is gone. Rather than treating such atrocities as tragic but isolated incidents, the ASA recognizes that white nationalism is deeply embedded within the historical and cultural context of “America” that runs through settler colonialism, slavery, genocide, mass incarceration, and exclusion. The recently uncovered recording of a racist conversation between Reagan and Nixon exemplifies how the advance of civil rights and decolonization unsettled long held presumptions of white domination.
As the oldest and largest scholarly association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of U.S. cultures and histories, this is not our first and it will not be our last statement on this topic. Such statements are necessary but inadequate to address the crisis we must confront. The critical work we do in and beyond the classroom is not merely “academic” labor. It is a urgent and necessary form of cultural production that confronts the conditions of an undeclared domestic war that becomes increasingly normalized anytime we allow oppressively violent rhetoric to remain unchallenged.
Our members research and teach about the operation of white supremacy as it intersects with heteropatriarchy, class stratification, ableism, and religious intolerance. It is incumbent on academic leaders to highlight and expand these critical forms of scholarship throughout all aspects of higher education. Half-measures pigeonholed within “diversity” centers and initiatives will not suffice. We need bold and courageous anti-racist principles guiding hiring, tenure, recruitment, student admissions, scientific research, labor relations, finance, endowment investments, community relations, and every aspect of our educational institutions.
In the ASA, we strive to model forms of solidarity, sustainability, and social justice that foster alternative visions and practices to supplant the rotting empire bent on destruction. We have chosen our upcoming meeting sites in Hawaiʻi (2019), Baltimore (2020), Puerto Rico (2021), and New Orleans (2022) because we aspire to partner with communities engaged in the critical struggles of our times. We firmly believe that those who bear the brunt of oppression have the most to teach us about how to survive and overcome it.
President: Scott Kurashige, University of Washington, Bothell
President Elect: Dylan E. Rodríguez, University of California, Riverside
Past President: Roderick A. Ferguson, Yale University
Executive Director: John F. Stephens
Councilor: Soyica Diggs Colbert, Georgetown University
Councilor: Deborah Vargas, Rutgers University
Community announcements and events are services that are offered by the ASA to support the organizing efforts of critical constituency groups. They do not reflect the decisions or actions of the association’s governance bodies, the National Council or Executive Committee. Questions should be directed to the committee, caucus, or chapter that has authored and posted this notice.