May/June 2020Vol. XXXII No. 5

Literature’s Statement of Solidarity

The Literature Section of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology stands against racism and the policing policies that enforce it. We abhor the racial profiling and the violence that have resulted recently in yet more murders of Black American citizens. We support the protesters and journalists who, calling attention to these barbarous acts, have themselves been attacked. Our loyalty is with Black communities who have fought ceaselessly for justice, and yet for centuries have been ignored, silenced and continuously subjected to state-sanctioned violence. However, words alone cannot bring about the systemic changes that will dismantle white supremacy; concrete, collective actions must be taken not only to make reparations for past and present wrongs but also to effect transformative and lasting change in our own institution and beyond.

At the same time, as scholars of literature, we recognize the unrivalled potency of language and the arts to organize, mobilize, inspire, and help effect such change. Across the diaspora, Black authors have used literature to bear witness to violence and injustice against communities of color in the present; to redress racist narratives of the past; and to envision possible futures beyond white supremacy. Teaching and studying their texts serves a vital role in shaping an antiracist ethos, and opens up spaces to consider related injustices such as border policing and the dispossession of indigenous land. Literature also cultivates an imaginative flexibility that can expose – and prompt efforts to undo – the workings of white privilege; it thus helps build the stamina to sustain a world in which we would all want to live, where all would be able to thrive.

Readers are never too young or too old to encounter literature that illuminates the problems we’re facing. This linked list of resources includes a diverse sample, from children’s picture books to works of cultural analysis, from novels and poems to plays and films.