Skip to content Skip to navigation

Letter From the Anthropology Graduate Committee

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Do we police because we fear we can be savages? Do our barricades from each other belie the blinds that keep us strangers to ourselves?
― Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams

I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.
― Audrey Lorde

Take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor.
― Elie Weisel

If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority, but to their inhumanity and fear.
— James Baldwin


Dear Graduate Students,

We the Graduate Program Committee of Stanford's Department of Anthropology have been deeply affected, saddened, angered, as we grieve the murder of George Floyd.

Racism has been foundational to the United States—requiring constant work to dismantle.

We are cognizant that people are experiencing this pain differently, and that some of our faculty and students, especially black and brown members of our community, may be finding it hard to sustain their usual focus right now. We are all living through a horrific event, the latest in a long line of abominations of state violence here in California, the U.S., and globally.

We encourage you to care for yourselves, as well as your beloved community, in these times. This may be especially important for those of us in black and brown bodies. It is simply work on most days to live in racialized skins. In that spirit, we encourage you to take time to rest. Pausing to re-source, too, is revolutionary, especially for those whose people have been regularly cast as ‘unproductive,’ ‘lazy,’ in need of ‘uplift,’ and ‘reform.’

Despite it all, we are heartened in recent days by the protesters, exercising their rights of expression and defiance, including dance, beautiful murals, peaceful sit-ins and unprecedented solidarity. All the more we’re buoyed by what seems like basic anthropological goals in action: learning from the horrors of our past, illuminating forces dividing people, posing pointed questions of the powerful, and refusing injustice.

So much change is still needed, it’s clear. May the day come soon when terms like ‘underserved communities’ and ‘police killings’ are obsolete in the worrisome experiment that is the United States.

We continue to be with you in these now multiply layered, unprecedented times. Please take care of your mental health and spirits to get the clarity we need as a society and as individuals, to make this world more equitable. 

Yes, we are far from that place. And there are no easy answers or quick fixes.

There is slow yet consistent work, which involves us all (as we are able) to engage through our actions, rage, recovery, rest, personal expressions and shared pain.

Duana and Matthew 


Graduate Program Committee 
Department of Anthropology 
Stanford University