Welcome back. The arrival of armed white supremacists at the university and in Charlottesville on August 11th and 12th, and of the KKK earlier in the summer, is shaping all of our experiences of return. As director of American Studies I want to say that all of our doors are open to you to process the difficulties of this moment.
In American Studies, we’ve also decided to skip the usual welcome back picnic this year and move straight to a Pizza and Praxis gathering that will allow us to come together as a community and discuss what happened, how the university and the city government responded, and what larger cultural and historical contexts can help us to better understand and confront these violent and hate-filled events.
Our event will be on Tuesday, September 5 at 6:30 pm in the Wilson Hall lobby on the first floor.
We met as a faculty yesterday to plan this gathering. We believe that the courses we teach in American Studies are all implicitly if not explicitly devoted to analyzing the long history of white supremacy, from its roots in settler colonialism and slavery through its current manifestation in the U.S. and here at UVA and in Charlottesville. We have been teaching that white supremacy is not simply the spectacular outburst of hatred and violence that you witnessed on August 11th and 12th. It is also a larger structure of thought that has been normalized over centuries in ways that are often invisible to those who benefit from white privilege.
We also believe that it is too soon to pronounce ourselves at UVA as a community in healing. The spectacular symptom may indeed recede, even as it makes its way to other parts of our national body and indeed the world, but the disease is still present and must be monitored with all the care and intelligence that we can muster. We hope that our classes and our events in American Studies can be part of this effort to know and understand the relation of white supremacy to our various pasts—institutional, local, national, hemispheric, and global—and to our ongoing present. And we hope that our studies of the multiple, vibrant, and long-lived traditions of anti-racist cultural, political, and aesthetic practices in the U.S. and the wider Americas can be a resource—not for "moving on," but for better knowing where we actually are.
To that end, we plan to dedicate our Pizza and Praxis and other events this year to a very basic theme: White Supremacy and Anti-Racism. Stay tuned for announcements of these events and please circulate widely and check our website and FB page for postings.