Response to the Events of January 6, 2021
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Like countless people across the United States – indeed, around the world – we in the Santa Clara University English Department witnessed the terrible events of January 6 in Washington, D.C., including the deaths of five people, with a mixture of horror, sadness, anger, fear, and shock. Shock, but not surprised: it is not as if we had no warning or could not see where the endless lies and the stoking of hatreds would lead. However, this violence is not confined to the domestic terrorist attack on the United States Capitol. Events of the last year serve as evidence of the continued presence of white supremacy in the United States and at Santa Clara University. We condemn white supremacy and white supremacist violence in all of its forms, including when SCU students express support for its leaders and use their platforms to share images of racial terror such as the nooses hung during the attack on the Capitol.
As members of the English Department, we must continually rethink our responsibilities as teachers, scholars, creative writers, SCU community members, and U.S. residents in light of ongoing terrible violence. We condemn these anti-democratic and racist attacks and recommit ourselves to the struggle for greater racial and social justice. During the Second World War, when the United States and its allies were fighting against an earlier strain of fascism, the critic Alexander Woollcott remarked, “I'm tired of hearing it said that democracy doesn't work. Of course it doesn't work. We are supposed to work it.” Every vote should count; every citizen should have equal access to the voting booth. Applying this mandate to our work as teachers, scholars, and artists, we recommit to exposing and challenging systems that privilege whiteness not only in our teaching but in every aspect of the educational system.
We have started this collective action as a department, and we will continue challenging shortfalls in our teaching culture and curriculum, scholarship, and service. We will redouble our efforts to recognize deception and propaganda and help our students develop critical thinking skills and information literacy to do the same. In a time of division and fear-mongering, we will allow the writers of the past and the present, of every race and nation, to expand our imaginations and our commitments to justice; we refuse to downplay the threats to life, freedom, and joy posed by white supremacy and its adherents.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
Jan 11, 2021
Image Credit: Martin Falbisoner