Department Statement on Black Lives Matter

June 12, 2020

To Our Students, Alumni, Colleagues, and Community:

The Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory unequivocally supports Black Lives Matter and Black activists across Turtle Island and around the world who have led and catalyzed the movement to address and eliminate ongoing state, institutional, and police anti-Black violence and racism. We are inspired by the history of Black activism in Vancouver, and the current leadership by local Black activists who have voiced the many dimensions of this oppression. We recognize that this movement is interconnected with Indigenous anti-colonial struggle, and resistance to the violence and racism systematically directed towards other racialized communities.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and too many others have died at the hands of police. We condemn police brutality against BIPOC and their communities. We condemn systemic racism and the colonial and race-based hierarchies produced and upheld under white supremacy. The harm and violence under these systems have taken the lives of Ahmaud Arbery, victims of the Charleston church massacre, Trayvon Martin, and those whom we may never know the names of.

Our work, research and engagement with inclusion, anti-racism, and equity needs to reflect our commitment to social justice. We know that there is much work to do and to continue doing. Teaching anti-racism within the study of aesthetics, curation, theory, art history and the production of art requires deep consideration and reflection as to how these fields have been operative in appropriating, oppressing and dehumanizing Black lives and culture. We must enact social change; as artists, art historians, curators, technicians, and administrators, we are examining how structural violence is replicated in the disciplines and institutions we are part of. As a department we have a role to play both in the larger institutional setting and within the unceded lands of the Coast Salish peoples in Vancouver ­– the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations.

We commit to structural changes within our department. This will encompass acknowledging the racist legacies and limits of our institutional and disciplinary histories, remediating curriculum and pedagogy to advance racial and social justice, identifying and prioritizing gaps in underrepresented research and scholarship, and providing employment equity and inclusion. To start this process, we commit to the following as first steps:

  • In consultation with the university and the Equity & Inclusion Office, we will hold anti-racism and anti-oppression training and workshops with all department members
  • We will review our current department policies and practices regarding employment equity, representation, and inclusion using the UBC Inclusion Action Plan as reference
  • We will continue to support our department student associations to ensure resources are available to foster safe and inclusive spaces free from discrimination and harassment

We are here to listen, to learn, and to activate deep structural change.