A Diverse, Inclusive, and Equitable day to you!
The leadership team here at PU’s Diversity/Inclusion/Equity (DIE) Office is pleased that so many of you have adopted the practice of land acknowledgment in your email signatures, as demonstrated by the following model statement from a colleague:
In community and solidarity,
Dr. Margaret “Marge” N. Alisación, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of Transformative Anti-Racist Latinx Andean Aboriginal Studies
I would like to respectfully and mournfully acknowledge my debt to the original and current caretakers of this land, water, and air: the Honniasontkeronon peoples and all of their ancestors and descendants, past, present, and future, who were and are pure victims of violence and dispossession. I hope that my work honors those caretakers of this, their stolen homeland. May the day of reckoning come soon! Venceremos!
It has, however, come to our attention that there are still some who have not yet completed this essential task. Our DIE agents in the field—Students and Teachers Advocating for Safety and Inclusion (STASI)—have reported that some suggest they could find no evidence that the founders of our school victimized indigenous peoples. Please recall that all at PU are required to attend the mandatory Liberatory and Inclusive Education Sessions (LIES) in which information is plentifully available regarding the moral and spiritual superiority of the eternally peaceful indigenous peoples on whose sacred lands we stand. A LIES schedule can be found on the DIE webpage, right beside the links for petitions to defund the police and to donate to bail funds for peaceful protesters who were unjustly jailed for striking a blow against racism by destroying property and fighting with police. Learn the true histories, which racist exclusion has buried, and when necessary, creatively invent them with the inspiration of social justice in your hearts!
Those who are not performing this invaluable confessional act must immediately correct the error or risk discipline. The compliant are encouraged to offer appropriate motivation to the laggards, including reporting to STASI when necessary. Make it fun! Hold public events and give prizes to those who turn in the most transgressors and ensure the unrelenting power of righteous collective judgment is brought to bear on them! There are good historical exemplars to follow in this area.
As effective as such measures are for reminding us of our constant participation in the oppression of people of color, confessional email signatures do not go far enough. We are therefore implementing further mechanisms for communicating racial sin and beginning the long, arduous process of making amends for the atrocities that make everyday life at PU possible. The first of these is as follows:
Conclude all statements uttered on the occupied ground which makes up our campus with a ritual profession of humble moral responsibility for colonialist violence. Our DIE staff will help you craft and memorize your own version, or you may borrow from the following examples:
Professor A: Hey, good to see you! How are you? I am eternally saddened and humbled to be on illegitimately and violently appropriated indigenous land and hereby admit my responsibility for these nefarious crimes against humanity committed by depraved, evil Europeans.
Professor B: Good! Gotta run to class. See you later at the faculty club? It is with great blameworthiness that I mindfully tread this native holy ground of peaceful peoples who lived in a communist utopia until the racist invasion; I acknowledge I have earned nothing in my life except my responsibility for the ill-gotten gains of racism; and I will now do an elaborate expressive dance that symbolically communicates my compassion for the pain of my forebears’ victims.
Student A: Are you going to the gym later? My despondent grief at the tribulations of innocent peoples my ancestors terrorized is boundless, and I promise to tirelessly teach my fellow whites that they are eternally guilty of the original sin of their ancestry.
Student B: Nah, I have to study for my Women’s Studies midterm. Only the forced removal of all people like me from occupied lands and the immediate transfer of all of our possessions to our historical victims can slowly begin to bring justice, though much more is needed until such time as Western civilization collapses entirely.
It is occasionally suggested that such measures constitute “mere words,” and a more substantive statement of our commitment to racial justice might be for activist professors and students to abandon their positions and give them to deserving indigenous victims of whiteness.
All who are versed in critical theory know that words can hurt and kill just as viciously and hatefully as any knife or gun. This is why we must ban all the dangerous ones! The DIE revolution is first of all a revolution of words and ideas! We need right-thinking DIE advocates in positions of institutional power—with salaries appropriate to the central importance of their work, naturally—who can mobilize the potent communicative weapons of email accounts and everyday conversation to bring down the powerful and raise up the dispossessed.
You are the vanguard! Use your privilege to become (in the words of beloved DIE activist Phoebe Unter) a “race traitor”and lovingly, mindfully smash all privilege at PU forever!
Note: this article is a satirical representation of a memo from a college diversity office. Unfortunately, it's not far off from reality.
Alexander Riley is a professor of sociology at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.