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The horrifying murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are recent examples
of systemic, widespread violence against Black people in the United States by police 1,2 and society
at large. The systemic racism evidenced by these murders has a long history. Racial classifications
were invented to establish a hierarchy defined by unequal rank and status, and this hierarchy was
maintained, and continues to be maintained, through violence. 3 Racism was used to justify
conquest, enslavement, and exploitation, thereby rationalizing white colonialism and capitalism in
the United States. 4 This ideology persists in today's society, where Black people, Indigenous
people, and other people of color are still actively discriminated against and oppressed through
violent means. However, these three recent deaths have begun to act as a catalyst for widespread
social change and far-reaching action. This change and action must include us.

We, the graduate students of the Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological
Sciences (IDPAS) at Stony Brook University, affirm that Black Lives Matter.

We stand in solidarity with African American and Black activists around the world who are bravely
fighting against police violence and other forms of institutional racism in the United States. We
stand with our Indigenous colleagues and international collaborators, in the United States and
abroad, who fight to have their voices heard under the undue racial hierarchies that colonialism
imposed and that persist today. This statement serves as the first step in our commitment to
promoting antiracism and decolonizing anthropology, both individually and as members of a
historically racist and colonial academic discipline.

  • As a student body, we commit to the following overarching goals:
    • To acknowledge and examine the role of anthropology as a whole and of our program

      specifically in perpetuating racism and neocolonial perspectives in research and academia;
    • To promote diversity and antiracism efforts and to organize ourselves and plan for future

      changes to policy, procedure, curriculum, and culture.

Anthropology’s Colonial Roots and Racist History
We cannot ignore the origins of our field. Anthropology was developed in the Enlightenment as a
form of race science to justify colonialism, capitalism, and slavery. 3,4Our discipline canonized
race as biological “truth.” Into the mid-20th century, mainstream anthropologists were explicitly
interested in proving the biological and cultural superiority of Europeans and those of European
descent. 5
Although anthropologists’ views on race have changed substantially, we IDPAS students recognize
that this history still implicitly impacts our research and its theoretical underpinnings. We may make
anatomical and behavioral comparisons between people from “traditional” societies and non-human
primates without explanation or justification. We typically do not bother to learn local languages
before or during fieldwork. We may devalue or minimize the knowledge and perspectives of
Indigenous partners. We often study collections of human remains and artifacts that were stolen or
otherwise unethically obtained. 6 We must acknowledge this history and these problems to build a
better future. We IDPAS students commit ourselves to examining how we learn, teach, and practice
within our field. We will make the changes necessary to foster inclusion and collaboration with the
communities in which we work, live, and engage.
Anthropologists today are uniquely poised to generate and disseminate the knowledge that race is
not biological—except in the ways in which structural violence causes oppression to be
embodied (e.g., in development and health) . 7 Racial categories cannot be distinguished
genetically 8,9 or on the basis of skin color. 10 This does not mean that there are no differences that
characterize human populations, but racial categories are not scientifically valid ways of
understanding human variation. 7,11 Instead, race is an ideology, a social construct, a worldview. In
this worldview, humans can be categorized into discrete groups by appearance or descent, and
value judgments are applied to these groups. As anthropologists, we must work to debunk myths
about the biological basis of race and the cultural superiority of Europeans. This necessitates
actively deconstructing and explaining our field’s past in our research and our classrooms. We as
anthropologists must also acknowledge and emphasize the wide-ranging, insidious impacts racism
continues to have on the health and socioeconomic status of Black people, Indigenous people, and
other people of color. 12,13

As much of our research in the IDPAS centers on the Global South, we must also remind ourselves
that the withdrawal of European colonizers did not remove colonial rule’s damaging, constrictive
impacts. 14 We pledge to not only acknowledge colonialism’s lasting legacy but also to fight against
the present subjugation of Indigenous voices by promoting active, equal partnership with our
international colleagues and by engaging in concerted mentorship efforts.

Position of the IDPAS Students: Addressing Present Gaps
As anthropologists, we acknowledge the ways that our field has contributed to racism, white
supremacy, and the marginalization of Black scholars and researchers. In addition to having open
and honest conversations about our role in this system of oppression, we are actively seeking ways
to change our program’s policies and practices in order to promote diversity and antiracism in
anthropology. We acknowledge that the IDPAS faculty have done admirable work in the classroom
and the field to combat racism and neocolonialism. Moving forward, we must consciously promote,
celebrate, and incentivize these kinds of initiatives. We the students of IDPAS call on the graduate
school, the IDPAS faculty, and one another to hold all faculty and students accountable. The
IDPAS student body is currently mostly white. As a result, we have had the privilege to avoid topics
of race, racism, and colonization in our research, in our classrooms, and in our conversations with
each other. We now realize that we cannot remain silent just because certain conversations are
uncomfortable or difficult. When we do not face issues of racism and colonialism head-on, we allow
our research to be used to support white supremacist ideology, 15,16 and we allow our field to be
unwelcoming to those who are the targets of oppression.or their roles in changing the culture and
policies of the program.
Instead, we must be the ones to speak up about removing the barriers which prevent marginalized
people from accessing full political, economic, and social power.

Commitment to Action
We the IDPAS students are currently developing an actionable, sustainable plan for challenging the
racist and colonial foundations of our discipline, our program, and our institution. We are seeking
out and listening to Black voices within and outside of academia. We are having discussions among
the IDPAS students and with the IDPAS faculty. Based on these conversations, we are taking steps
to promote antiracism and decolonization efforts in our department:
1) We have founded the Decolonization and Antiracism Group . This journal club and
discussion group is dedicated to fostering a welcoming, non-judgmental, and self-reflective
environment for having difficult conversations about race, neocolonialism, anthropology, and
2) We are currently developing ways to improve the teaching and mentorship of
undergraduates from underrepresented minority groups by promoting inclusivity in our
curricula, syllabi, and research mentorship. We have begun compiling inclusive pedagogy
training resources and designing a course on inclusive pedagogy for IDPAS students.
3) We are organizing new outreach efforts and creating science programming to specifically
engage with underserved communities. We commit to helping promote diversity in science,
technology, engineering, liberal arts, and mathematics through community outreach and
4) We are collaborating with the IDPAS faculty to improve the program’s attractiveness to
and recruitment of Black students, as well as students from other underrepresented
minority groups. We suggest changes including adjustments to our program’s advertising,
funding, admissions requirements, and curriculum.
5) We are advocating for the IDPAS to create a new student position (or positions) to
promote allyship and inclusivity . The responsibilities of this position would include
compiling and maintaining resources for self-education, informing the IDPAS students about
activism efforts on- and off-campus, and contacting other university organizations and
departments about their own inclusivity efforts. The student would also field concerns of
IDPAS students regarding race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexuality, disability,
place of origin, and socioeconomic status. The creation of this position would ensure that
inclusivity is a long-term priority in the IDPAS.

We ask that faculty and the university join us in creating and implementing these meaningful and
necessary changes. Racism in academia, in anthropology, and in our program cannot be remedied
immediately or easily, but we IDPAS students are committed to these antiracism and decolonization
efforts. Racist and colonial worldviews are inherently formed by division. Only by listening and
working together can we begin the important work of planning for changes to policy, procedure,
curriculum, and culture.

In solidarity,
Jenna Anderson
Dorien de Vries
Marcy Ekanayake-Weber
Jacob Feder
Daphne Hudson
Anastasia Iorga
Katherine J. Kling
Shannon McKeon
Sarah T. Mincer
Abigail Nishimura
Evelyn Pain
Ashley Nicole Parks
Rachel Perlman
Ryan S. Rothman
Amanda K. Rowe
Katharine Thompson
Nicolás G. Wiggenhauser
Jack Winans
Deming Yang

[Statement of 31 July 2020, approved by IDPAS students]