The Department of History, Geography, and Philosophy at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette knows that Black lives matter and we stand with Black Lives Matter activists. We are saddened and angered by the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and so many unnamed others. Coupled with the devastating public health and economic impact COVID-19 has had on communities of color, particularly in Louisiana, it should be clear to all that today’s problems have deep roots. As scholars we know that anti-Black violence perpetrated by the police and others has a long history with a damaging legacy. But that knowledge alone does not solve the problem. It only enables us to begin the process of understanding. Change will also require action from institutions like ours.
We recognize that the disciplines contained in our department are particularly relevant today. Studying history, geography, and philosophy helps us understand the larger forces and ideas at work, the people who bravely stand up for justice, and the consequences of our actions. The training and methods of historians, geographers, and philosophers equips us—and our students—with the ability to distinguish facts from fiction and to interpret the significance of those facts. History provides an understanding of the origins and evolution of the difficulties we face today. Philosophy asks and attempts to answer new and difficult questions about ethics, power, existence, intersectionality, and the best ways to create flourishing human communities. Geography gives us tools for examining the interlocking systems of oppression that have uneven effects on particular groups of people across time and space. But despite this important work, we also recognize that both the department and the University have not committed enough to fighting institutional racism. We are committed to advocating for change and pleased that President Savoie has committed to implementing actions contained in the University’s Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence.
In the Department of History, Geography, and Philosophy, we pledge to use our positions to promote justice and to provide a safe, equitable, and inclusive environment while encouraging serious scholarship, teaching, and service. Going forward, we will take steps to improve our outreach and engagement as scholars and teachers. As we return to campus in the fall, we will be inviting scholars to hold on-campus and virtual lectures, readings, and discussions about topics relevant to the moment. We will continue to expand our course offerings to include more histories of underrepresented people and places. We will begin to review the curriculum to see how we might make positive changes to ensure that students are receiving a broad and diverse liberal arts training from each of our disciplines. And we will work collectively to promote the hiring of more Black faculty and other faculty of color.
We stand with those who demand justice and reform.