Statement in Support of the Black Lives Matter Movement and Against Racial Discrimination in Academia

In 2018, we, the Executive Board of the Society for Anthropological Sciences, publicly expressed our commitment to ending bullying, harassment and discrimination within academia, and to assisting individuals working in precarious environments to improve their working conditions through mentoring and mutual support. Since then, conditions in academia have continued to disenfranchise scholars in historically underrepresented or marginalized groups, and the number of precarious scholars and scientists who must contend with hostile and debilitating working environments has increased. Beyond academia, however, awareness of broader societal violence and discrimination have become unavoidable. The global wave of protests and demonstrations in the wake of the killing of George Floyd have driven issues of racism and institutions of power to the foreground. George Floyd was not the first, nor even the most recent incident of an unarmed Black person dying as a result of police restraint techniques or violence. The killings are alarming and distressing. Moreover, they are not a recent phenomenon, which makes the fact that there appear to be people prepared to justify, or even deny, this violence, all the more horrifying. Many police personnel across the country have come out publicly to condemn the actions of the officers in these cases. Nevertheless, these cases of police violence illustrate how the police and other enforcement agencies are rooted in a history of racism and unequal treatment of individuals under the law. We assert they must uphold the law fairly and equitably for all people.

Scholarly societies are established, for the most part, to advance the interests of their members. We believe that it is in the interests of all members of the Society for Anthropological Sciences for us to make explicit that we expect equality and justice for all people regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sex, or physical ability. We find the conditions of racism and violence that Black people must endure intolerable and unacceptable and support the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement. Too often, it seems that police officers see the public as a threat. The biases of the officers, whether conscious or unconscious, have made Black people and other people of color appear to be more of a threat. Consequently, the first response of police officers is too often aggressive and intimidating. The conditions associated with the deaths that have most recently been seen on the television and social media are not new. However, the prevalence of numerous video attestations has made the recognition of police violence unavoidable and the call to end it ubiquitous.

Against this backdrop, we disavow the use of science to further racist agendas or to promote actions that have damaged people physically, politically, economically or culturally. As advocates for scientific approaches within anthropology, we reject so-called scientific methods that have been used to promote or to prop up discriminatory and unjust political ideologies. While scientists need not always explore issues specifically with the goal of improving the human condition, we should never pursue research that aims to diminish or impoverish the conditions for some humans so that others might benefit.

Along the same lines, we urge support for colleagues who face discrimination and violence. We call for the adoption of policies that recognize the disproportionate hurdles facing some communities and that will enable diverse scholars and scientists to fully participate in our institutions. We assert and fully believe that greater diversity enriches the pursuit of knowledge and enhances the contribution that scholarship can make not only within the academy, but also throughout society as a whole.

We therefore call on all members of the Society for Anthropological Sciences to support Black Lives Matter demands for justice and security for everyone. We welcome and support scholars and scientists from diverse disciplinary traditions in order to support and promote empirically rigorous and credible scholarship. We do not believe that being a member of SAS is compatible with espousing or promoting ideologies that would deprive some people of the right to equal opportunity, security or even life. As scholars who purport to be dedicated to understanding and in many instances, preserving the many manifestations and expressions of humanity, it would be the height of hypocrisy to ignore the marginalization of any person or people.

The SAS Executive Board

Stephen Lyon – President
Murray Leaf – Past-President
Stephen Chrisomalis – President-Elect
Kevin Kelly – Treasurer
Mas Stein – Secretary
Doug Hume – Executive Board Member at Large
Francois Dengah – Executive Board Member at Large
Ian Skoggard – Executive Board Member at Large
Sarah Carson – Student Member
Summar Saad – Student Member
Nikki Henderson – Student Member-Elect
Victor de Munck – Executive Board Member at Large-Elect
Denise Knisely – Treasurer-Elect