Diversity and equity in teaching, research, and service

Always in progress.
July, 2020

As a queer scholar with a socioeconomically underprivileged background in higher ed, and as a Buddhist, I stand in resolute solidarity with liberatory work taking place this year to improve the lives of black folks, the lives of other folks of color, and folks from gender and sexual minorities. I recognize the immense privilege that my whiteness, my maleness, and my education affords me.

Us historians wield a kind of subjectivity which gives us the tools to undo what so often seem like natural, inherited states of affairs. As educators, as researchers, and as reflective, engaged citizens, we should play a role in this work. In our publications, advocacy, service, activism, and our teaching, we should choose to elevate the voices of the least enfranchised amongst us.

In my service to the Department of History and the community of Southeast and South Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, I am proud to have voted in favor of policies and procedures that increase the equity and diversity of our graduate student community and access to resources and mentorship.

I support the recent statement issued by my Department in June, 2020, written in partial response to the killing of George Floyd, and the murder of many black folks in far too–recent memory; including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Madison’s own Tony Robinson. The statement reads, in part:

As historians, we know that that better day will not come through an abstract force called progress, but through the actions of people resolved to make meaningful change. We stand in solidarity and community with those fighting for change and challenging structures of racism and injustice. …[W]e also know that such struggles are never neat or without difficulty. In another moment of grave national crisis, the fugitive slave, abolitionist, and writer Frederick Douglass put it this way: “The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”

from the “Statement of Commitment to Eradicating White Supremacy, Institutional Racism, and Anti-Black Violence,” UW–Madison Department of History, June 8, 2020

Cover of Simon Balto's book "Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power"

While it is not my area of expertise in research or teaching, I am compelled by these important (largely academic) historical and sociological accounts of racism in the criminal justice system, histories of slavery in the U.S., and related studies about the protection of “private property” in both of these contexts. This is by no means exhaustive:

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New Press, 2020)

Simon Balto, Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power (UNC Press, 2019)

Paul Butler, Chokehold: Policing Black Men (New Press, 2018)

Salle E. Hadden, Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas (Harvard UP, 2003)

Adam Malka, The Men of Mobtown: Policing Baltimore in the Age of Slavery and Emancipation (UNC Press, 2018)

Marable, Steinberg, & Middlemass eds., Racializing Justice, Disenfranchising Lives The Racism, Criminal Justice, and Law Reader (Palgrave, 2007)

Glenn McNair, Criminal Injustice Slaves and Free Blacks in Georgia’s Criminal Justice System (UVA Press, 2009)

Am I missing the mark somewhere? I’m learning constantly, and trying to do better for you, for our students, and for the world around me. I understand that one can never “arrive;” allyship is, after all, an active, willful stance. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.