Statement of the Religious Studies Program on Antiracism & Inclusivity

Angered and devastated by the continued police killings of Black people, and inspired by movements calling for justice, the faculty of Religion are galvanized by the events of the past summer to reflect, educate ourselves and our students, and act to address antiblackness and white supremacy. We begin by acknowledging the colonial and racist legacies of religious studies as a field, the responsibility and rewards of decentering whiteness and Christian colonial categories in the study of religion, and our own participation in and benefit from legacies of institutional racism.

The police killing of Dreasjon Reed in Indianapolis, as well as documented racist incidents on our campus, are reminders that our community is a part of the nation’s ongoing reckoning with structural racism. The state of Indiana was once home to the largest chapters of the Ku Klux Klan in the nation. Today, Blacks comprise 9 percent of Indiana’s population, but 34 percent of the state’s incarcerated population, whereas whites make up 82 percent of the population and only 59 percent of the state’s incarcerated population (Hispanics make up 6 percent of the population and 6 percent of incarcerated people) (Prison Policy Initiative). Police kill Blacks in Indianapolis at a rate 3.5x greater than that of whites. Though founded by a prominent abolitionist, Butler University remains a primarily white institution (PWI). The University’s own research reveals that people of color often feel less welcome, while facing greater obstacles, at Butler (as at other PWIs). We must, therefore, work with intention to ensure that we live up to our highest ideals of inclusivity, equity, and justice.

We recognize that statements such as this risk falling into the traps of performative allyship, and are vulnerable to bureaucratization at a moment when so many feel compelled to say something. With this statement, we wish to hold ourselves accountable to students, colleagues, and community, and declare our commitment to the following specific short and long-term actions:

  • Conduct an inventory of our program curriculum with a view towards decentering whiteness, promoting anti-racist practices, and diversifying the voices and perspectives we highlight in our courses.
  • Increase our department’s contribution to the Social Justice and Diversity requirement of Butler’s core curriculum.
  • Engage in ongoing faculty efforts to continue educating ourselves on issues of anti-racist pedagogy, productive allyship, workplace microaggressions, etc., in order to become better educators of all students, and more supportive colleagues to BIPOC faculty and staff (link to 2020-21 reading list).
  • Recognize the value and importance antiracism/diversity/decentering white work, as well as the significant labor involved in this work, by (i) sharing the responsibility for the work equally among all department members (ii) recognizing effort and achievement in this kind of work by including it as an expectation and standard by which departmental faculty are evaluated in annual reviews.