Department of History Statement on Racial Justice | July 10, 2020
As members of the Department of History at Baylor, we offer the following statement and commitment in response to the public killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota; the subsequent public outcry against systemic racism occurring across the nation; and ongoing national, local, and campus conversations:
We commend the Board of Regents statement from June 25, 2020 acknowledging the University’s connection to slavery and the Confederacy (Baylor University Board of Regents Resolution on Racial Healing and Justice). We also affirm the June 2020 statement from the American Historical Association (AHA Statement on the History of Racist Violence in the United States) "urging a reckoning with the United States' deplorable record of violence against African Americans, a record that stretches back centuries,” as well as their call to action, stating that “It is past time for Americans to confront our nation's past, using insights from history to inform our actions as we work to create a more just society.”
As educators, we affirm the importance of stating plainly these historical truths as the foundation for an understanding of both the past and the present. As historians, we are also keenly aware that, as was the case in many places around the country, at Baylor, emancipation and the end of the Civil War did not bring peace, justice, or equity to Black Americans. Throughout the country—and right here in Waco—Black Americans were subject to discrimination and violence that denied them access to housing, capital, healthcare, and education. This last point remained true at Baylor for a hundred years after the end of the Civil War. As Black Americans fought for the rights promised to them in the Constitution but denied to them by the systemic racism of the federal, state, and local governments, many at Baylor too resisted admitting the fundamental truth that all are created equal, insisting instead that only White Americans were worthy of this University’s education.
Although today those times might seem like the distant past, we must acknowledge that we live with the consequences of all those years of discrimination. Decades of injustice cannot be easily overcome, nor can we pretend that we live in a world—or on a campus—free from all forms of hate or inequity. As historians we are called to understand the past, yet for too long our understanding has been distorted by the ways in which we excluded Black bodies, voices, and experiences from our inquiries and narratives. We must do better. We cannot hope for peace and justice in the current day if we do not first acknowledge the ways in which we denied those very things to Black Americans throughout history. That is why we not only affirm the statement by the Board of Regents, but also commit ourselves to ensuring that Black voices ring loud in our textbooks and classrooms so that our history reflects the full truth of the American experience and that we might continue the fight to fulfill the lofty goals of our founding creeds.
As people of faith, we repudiate racism as antithetical to the character of the God we serve and contradictory to the idea of humanity as created in God’s own image. As teachers and mentors, we commit to examining the ways in which our own scholarly and classroom practices might perpetuate systemic racism rather than address, confront, and/or actively work against it. Finally, as members of the Baylor community, we grieve for those voices who feel or have felt unseen and unheard. We recognize the need to listen to, learn from, and value the experiences of Black people, and we pledge to do the hard work needed to make our department and campus a place that does so as well.