The Department of English, the Program for Creative Writing, and the Program for Writing and Rhetoric condemn anti-Black police violence and systemic racism. As the world knows, George Floyd was murdered by four Minneapolis police officers on May 25th. Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot by white vigilantes while jogging in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23rd. Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was killed by police while asleep at home in Louisville, Ky. on March 13th. Tony McDade, a transgender man, was fatally shot by Tallahassee police on May 27th. David McAtee, owner of YaYa’s BBQ, was fatally shot on June 2nd.  He was killed by the Louisville police force whom he had fed, and who two months earlier had killed Breonna Taylor.  

Ahmaud Arbery     Breonna Taylor     George Floyd     Tony McDade     David McAtee

Their murders by police and white citizens are unexceptional. Black Americans are killed by police at a rate two and a half times greater than white AmericansBlack women are unlawfully arrested, assaulted, raped, and murdered by policeTransgender and gender non-conforming people of color disproportionately experience police harassment and assault.  

Black, Brown, and Indigenous lives are cut short by the racism, settler colonialism, misogyny, and anti-transgender violence of the criminal justice system, banks and other financial institutions, government agencies, and healthcare corporations. The obstacles faced by people of color further include biased loan and housing policies as well as unequal access to medical treatment, culturally-affirming education, jobs, food, water, and clean air. Indigenous peoples are dispossessed of their lands and water. 

And yet

Ahmaud Arbery     Breonna Taylor     George Floyd     Tony McDade     David McAtee

matter to their families and communities who love them and mourn their unjust deaths.  They matter to thousands taking to the streets across “the Other America” and around the world to protest entrenched racism that, in the words of Martin Luther King, "must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots."  They matter to millions more who are sickened by sanctioned and institutionalized racism.  

And they matter to us in the English Department, the Program for Creative Writing, and the Program for Writing and Rhetoric. Critical and creative writing, thinking, and interpretive work are crucial to fighting racism’s chokehold on our country.  We pledge to apply the skills of our profession towards this mission.  We insist that Black Lives Matter. We urge the CU Boulder administration to act in support of the Black Student Alliance and all Black students who, routinely facing racism on campus and in the Boulder community, have presented actionable demands for equity, healing, and social justice

English Literature resources for learning about race


“How Culturally Responsive Lessons Teach Critical Thinking”

Some educators are concerned that cultural awareness is included in course content at the expense of rigor. Yet it's not a zero-sum game. This article invites parents, students, and other stakeholders to consider how students’ critical thinking skills can be honed through teaching about race and culture.

Committee against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English 

A resource with advice, printable posters, and ways to get involved--especially useful for our students who plan to be teachers.

“The Forum” Podcast: The American Author James Baldwin

A podcast episode focused on the work of James Baldwin, a central figure in twentieth-century American literature. “The author of popular novels such as Go Tell It on the Mountain and bold essay collections such as The Fire Next Time, his works explored themes including race, sexuality, identity, democracy and love. A critic and analyst of his country’s racial divide, he saw division as destructive and urged his fellow citizens to achieve a better future together.” Hosted by Rajan Datar with guests: the scholars Rich Blint, Ernest L. Gibson III, and Magdalena Zaborowska.

Lauren Michele Jackson, "What Is an Anti-Racist Reading List For?" 

Keeangha-Yamahtta Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation (2016)

Situates Black Lives Matter within the long freedom movement from anticolonial Black radicalism of the early twentieth century through the present.  Analyzes the origins and nature of Black oppression within the political economy of racism and settler colonialism.  Discusses strategy for Black liberation.

Toni Morrison on literature’s anti-racist power: The Pieces I Am (2019)

In this award-winning documentary, the Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison shares her life experiences and writing process. Her work brought awareness of black perspectives to countless readers. Early in her career, Morrison wondered: “What can I do where I am?” She found the answer in literature: “I'm an editor, and I'm opening people's eyes with words. … It would be my job to publish the voices, the books, the ideas of African Americans--and that would last.”

Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (1997);

Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women and Queer Radicals (2019)

For historical context in the 19th century (Scenes of Subjection) and 20th century (Wayward Lives) in terms of white complicity, the spectacle of Black suffering, and the dailiness of lived oppression.

Resources and actions (adapted from Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)


A Mental Health Guide for People of Color:

Anti-racism resources for white people, resources compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein

So You Want to Talk About Race, talk by Ijeoma Oluo

How to Be an Antiracist  by Ibram X. Kendi

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

Action toolkits from Black Lives Matter

Decolonize your mind, reading list

“Is my school racist?”

List of best places to donate

Incorporating anti-racist pedagogy