School of History, Classics and Archaeology

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Black Lives Matter

A statement from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology

As scholars, educators, and global citizens, we the staff and students of the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology at Newcastle University unequivocally condemn the police brutality and racial violence that led to the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others. We stand in solidarity with those who exercise their democratic right to protest against injustice, inequality, and systemic racism faced by black people in the U.S., the U.K., and around the globe. Black Lives Matter.

We acknowledge the fear, pain, and anger felt by many in our community, especially black students and colleagues. We are united in grief for those whose lives have been inhumanely cut short by racial violence, in anger over the injustice and racism faced by black people everywhere, and in fear for the future in this uncertain time of two global pandemics - racism and COVID-19.

We would like to use this historic moment as an opportunity to assert our commitment to address and combat racism, inequality, and injustice. 

As scholars of the past, we recognize that the long history of racial violence and structural racism is both ongoing and deeply rooted in contemporary society, in the U.S., U.K., and around the globe. We recognize the role the U.K. played in that history.  The trans-Atlantic slave trade, plantation slavery, and British empire were underpinned by racial violence. The legacies of this history include the hate crimes and systematic racism faced by black communities in the U.K. today.  We recognize that racial violence takes many forms. Structural inequalities, including the over-representation of BAME populations in lower socio-economic and 'at risk' groups, have been a root cause of the disproportionate deaths from COVID-19 tragically suffered by BAME people.

We recognize that poverty is a form of violence, that education is the primary vehicle of social mobility, and that the under-representation of black staff and students in our School represents a major failing on our part. And sadly, we are not unique. As the Royal Historical Society Race, Ethnicity and Equality Report painfully exposed, BAME students and staff face ‘racial and ethnic inequalities in the teaching and practice of history in the U.K.’ A report published in the Council of University Classical Departments' Bulletin detailing a series of racist incidents which occurred during the joint annual meetings of the Society of Classical Studies and Archaeological Institute of America in San Diego in 2019 noted that the need for greater diversity and inclusion within Classical scholarship in the UK was no less pressing.  These inequalities extend from our lecture theatres to the professions our students enter. In 2013, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) published a report which showed that 99% of professional archaeologists are white.

In our School we know that words are meaningless unless they are accompanied by actions. We recognize there is much work to be done. We are committed, including through our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee and our ongoing work towards making short and longer term positive changes to make our School a safe, welcoming, supportive home for black students and staff, and to combat injustice, racial violence, and systemic racism in our society.  One example is that we are planning a week-long series of events in November 2020 which will bring staff and students together to explore how we can work in partnership to accelerate decolonizing our curriculum. 

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