Antiracism in the Academy

Statement on Black Lives Matter and Antiracism in the Academy

Dear members of the William Faulkner Society,

The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others underscore this fact: racism in America is lethal. The William Faulkner Society stands in solidarity with those working to dismantle systems of oppression in the United States. We bear witness to the precarity of black and brown lives in America, and the impacts of white supremacy’s pervasiveness across our institutions of learning and law.

We recognize that William Faulkner’s legacy as a white, cisgender man from the former planter class is layered and complex. At the same time that his work reveals a deep sensitivity to racial violence, his public comments on topics like race and segregation swung from progressive to reactionary. With this legacy in mind, we voice unequivocal opposition to structural racism and state violence.

As a society, we are committed to supporting black and brown students and scholars in their endeavors to read, study, and critique William Faulkner’s work. The executive committee has begun discussions to determine how we can make change collectively and concretely. Our work is urgent, overdue, and ongoing. These are the commitments we have articulated thus far:

1. Create a travel scholarship to support BIPOC scholars (faculty, students, and independent scholars) attending the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference.

2. Devote targeted energy to support antiracist, anti-oppressive research on Faulkner with the hopes of developing further grants and scholarships.

3. Sponsor antiracist Faulkner panels at national conferences, e.g. the Modern Language Association Conventions (MLA), the American Literature Association Conferences (ALA), etc.

4. Work with our membership and community to broaden representation on our Executive Committee, amongst our panel and roundtable participants, etc.

We acknowledge that our executive committee is largely white or white-presenting, and that academia, itself, is a largely white enterprise. White scholars can no longer choose to ignore how we are implicated in the oppression and silencing of our fellow community members. We recognize that institutions of higher learning are often underscored by the very social inequities that they often seek to study and transform. We commit to evaluating and assessing how our organization can become not more inclusive, but rather more antiracist in its approach to addressing these disparities in the work that we do and build towards transformative justice.

As we undertake this work, we commit to listening: we encourage our members to reach out to us to share your ideas for ways we as an organization can do more and do better. This is a conversation, and we look forward to supporting our membership through providing opportunities to learn and grow together.

In solidarity,

Taylor Hagood, President
Sarah Gleeson-White, Vice President
Rebecca Starr Nisetich, Secretary*
Jenna Grace Sciuto, Treasurer*
Julie Beth Napolin, Officer-at-Large
Catherine Gunther Kodat, Representative-at-Large

* denotes primary authorship