WiG Leadership Statement on addressing racism in WiG and building anti-racist and decolonizing initiatives
As a follow-up to our WiG Leadership statement at the end of May 2020 in support of Black Lives Matter, we would like to notify the membership of some initiatives we are undertaking and also to remind you that anti-racist activities involve hard work and difficult, yet necessary, self reflection. This involves addressing the ways in which white supremacy is perpetuated at WiG, in our meetings and communications, as well as by WiG members in our everyday personal and professional lives. As an organization that desires to address its own systemic racism, we know that we can and must do better.
There is a long history of instances of racism at the WiG conference and perpetrated by WiG members. In the past, we have met to discuss these issues as a group during our conferences, but they continue to persist. With this violent and disappointing history in mind, the question becomes: what can we do to make lasting change in our organization? How can we shift the culture of WiG to open up space and provide a sense of community for diverse voices and to dismantle the structural racism that protects white privilege?
At a time when there are a number of events on race, on white fragility, on anti-racist interventions––on our campuses, in our professional lives, and in our home communities––we ask that we, and especially the white members of WiG, take time to educate ourselves, to explore ways to decolonize German Studies curricula, to confront German Studies as a field of research by interrogating the practice of knowledge creation and knowledge transfer within it, to discuss antiracist intersectional feminism in an informed way, to read and listen to experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and to support, thank, and show our appreciation of WiG members who have been doing this important work for a long time. We acknowledge that as an organization, we are collectively behind where we need to be in terms of knowledge and education on these topics and we encourage everyone in our organization to renew their commitment to the learning that needs to take place before proper and effective action can occur. Well-intentioned but ill-informed intervention can be very damaging.
Moving forward, we would like to build an anti-racist feminist agenda within WiG, one that is centered as a critical priority within our organization. As a next step of what will be an ongoing process, we will be offering a session titled “Visioning Transformative and Antiracist Futures: A Call for Principled Solidarities” as our Thursday Night coalitional feminism-in-action event during the 2020 Virtual WiG conference. We are thrilled that Dr. Xhercis Méndez, Associate Professor in Women and Gender Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Fullerton and transformative justice consultant, will be facilitating this event. Our vision is that this session, as well as a series of optional follow-up workshops, will help us reflect on how anti-Black and other forms of racism have and continue to operate within WiG and explore strategies for dismantling the white supremacy that pervades our organization. Only once we have addressed these injustices within WiG will we be prepared to build the skills needed to effectively and impactfully intervene in and dismantle systems of racism and other interlocking forms of inequity and oppression on our own campuses and in our communities. We recognize that WiG needs to change before we can serve as a model for change in our broader communities. We realize that one session and the follow-up workshop series will neither result in structural change, nor will it dramatically shift the power structures within WiG. However, we hope it will lead us on a path towards a more equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist organization. As an outcome of the session and resulting workshops, we plan to jointly develop ways in which each of us can become more engaged in this process. All WiG members are encouraged to participate in these efforts for the betterment of our organization and the communities we serve in our professional and personal lives.
This will not be easy work. These types of discussions expose vulnerabilities, anxieties, and weaknesses. Yet they are necessary and critical conversations that we believe will help us aspire to become the organization we would like to be: one that has anti-racist feminism at its very core. The time is now to work for a culture of change.