The faculty of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Colorado Boulder unanimously share a sense of anguish and anger at recent racist violence in the United States, much of it perpetrated by police and federal officers. As scholars of the human condition, we understand the intimate connection between structural and symbolic violence. We are familiar with the histories of imperial conquest which led to the annihilation of indigenous peoples by war and disease, and the formation of racial castes as features of political domination and economic extraction. Recent revelations of the persistence of profoundly racist systems in the USA, rooted in institutions of slavery and maintained during the last century since their formal conclusion, have not been surprising. They nonetheless remain unacceptable. We applaud the courageous, peaceful protests demanding the simple but overdue recognition that Black lives matter. We support efforts to expose the unjust targeting of Black men in particular by police officers. We are committed to participating in creating a more just world.
While the interests invested in maintaining systemic racism are profound, we know that they can be defeated. One of the key sites for achieving this is through researching, documenting, and teaching about the historical and contemporary forms that facilitate racism, often through apparently minor but still aggressive forms of exclusion. We have therefore been alarmed to see that on our own campus, this year’s Visiting Scholar at the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization, John Eastman, has engaged in exactly this sort of barely shrouded racial profiling. Eastman has misused the principle of academic freedom to question settled law on the 14th amendment in order to challenge whether Senator Kamala Harris is a legitimate candidate for Vice President of the USA. Disqualifying citizens of color as ineligible for membership in our national community is not a new racist tactic. It is rooted in our nation’s foundations, a history which denied the full rights and privileges of citizenship to Americans of color. We strongly object to the presentation of this sort of racist rhetoric as intellectually or factually accurate.
Anthropologists have been powerful voices in previous eras of racial struggle in the USA and elsewhere. We have and will continue to identify inaccurate, misused accounts of history and the human condition. Here at CU, we stand with our colleagues and students on this campus and around the world in identifying and working to end all forms of racial violence.