Early Caribbean Society Statement on Anti-Racism and Social Justice
Dear ECS Members,
In the wake of the most recent horrific and violent acts of state-sanctioned murders of Black people, including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, and David McAtee, the members of ECS’s Executive Committee express our profound grief and anger. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and with those kneeling during the National Anthem. We stand with all those protesting systemic anti-black racism and with those insisting on social justice and an end to centuries of settler violence and colonial oppression. In our own institutions we support those actioning a multi-faceted response including anti-racist pedagogy in their classrooms and research, a decentering of whiteness in curricula and research methods, and support for Black research and students.
As scholars of the early Caribbean, the members of ECS understand better than most the history of the racist systems designed to continue this deadly assault against Black people. The period we study — from the early colonization of the Caribbean to the period of emancipation beginning in the 19th century — saw the colonization of the Caribbean following the genocides of Indigenous Nations, the height of transatlantic slavery, the rise of settler colonial culture, and the growth of global capitalism. The legacies and ongoing dynamics of these histories and systems continue to have devastating impacts today on Black people specifically and on people of color in general all over the world. The ECS bears a responsibility to take actions that will help to dismantle these racist and exploitative systems, and we here commit to doing so. We urge our members to reflect on the mission of the Early Caribbean Society to “further the exchange of ideas and information among scholars of all nations and of various disciplines who study the literature, history, and culture of the Caribbean region from the period of the earliest written records until the era of emancipation.” We urge you to consider how such exchange can help to develop anti-racist and decolonial work in our fields.
In accordance with that mission, ECS commits to the following actions :
Provide material support for Black students and scholars of the Caribbean, through a conference/research fund.
Establish ongoing relations with the Caribbean Studies Association, with the goal of ensuring that work on the early Caribbean is in conversation with and addresses contemporary issues in Caribbean Studies.
Establish reciprocal relations with Caribbean universities and scholars.
We likewise encourage our members to take the following steps:
Recognize that our Black colleagues and students face threats to their physical and emotional well-being every day and that this seriously impacts the goals we profess to espouse, such as meritocracy, inclusion and diversity. The fact is that systemic racism persists in our structures and does not deliver, indeed it actively blocks, these ideals.
Stand as allies with our Black colleagues and students, which involves listening, learning, and taking action to change this state of affairs. Those actions include modifying course syllabuses to amplify the perspectives of Black scholars, black histories, and black cultures, revising academic ‘standards,’ mentoring younger Black colleagues and students, and promoting the decolonization of archives.
We welcome your comments and suggestions on actions the ECS can take as a scholarly body and as individual scholars to support Black scholars and institutions.