Like you, we have watched the events of recent days with grief and horror. The murders of Eric Logan, Manuel Ellis, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and so many others remind us that the ongoing trauma of state-perpetrated violence against the Black community is a problem that we as a nation have repeatedly failed to address. We have heard the call of the Notre Dame Student Government to do more than “simply [look] back to 1964 when Father Hesburgh stood hand in hand with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” We are listening to the call to action of the Black Students Association and know that we need to strive to better address the unique challenges of this painful moment within and beyond the classroom.
As our first step, we pledge to review our curriculum in order to incorporate anti-racist and antiauthoritarian principles into our pedagogy, as elaborated in the following: Our Commitment to Anti-Racist, Anti-Authoritarian Pedagogy
As scholars of German and Russian, we recognize our special responsibility to educate students about racism and authoritarianism in defense of liberal democracy and the universal pursuit of human flourishing. The societies we study are responsible not only for a long history of violence enacted through colonialism and ethnic exclusion, but also for some of the worst crimes against humanity committed during the past century.
We heed the call of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in Open Wide Our Hearts (2018) for Catholic educational institutions “to develop curricula relating to racism and reconciliation.” Therefore, in accordance with the pillars of our discipline (language, literature, and culture), we pledge to teach our students that
- power can be wielded through language, which has the ability not only to communicate, inspire, and persuade, but also to manipulate, demean, and hurt;
- speech plays a crucial role in preserving or eroding democracy, especially when we fail to examine it critically;
- cultural traditions comprise countless voices, many of which are silenced but must be heard;
- all human societies are imperfect, and our efforts to improve them gain strength when we learn about and from others.