Follow-Up on ACL’s June 3rd Statement of Solidarity
N.B. - This statement is not final and had always been intended as a follow-up to our earlier statement. We will continue to grow stronger as we perform the actions we have committed to do.
The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee, and countless other known and unknown victims of police brutality and white supremacy have highlighted the deeply seated racism in our country that began well before these events. America’s history of racism sets up structures that privilege whiteness while marginalizing and dehumanizing Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color. The American Classical League and all its subsidiaries acknowledge that we have been at fault; the ACL has been involved in, perpetuated, and tolerated acts of racism and intolerance within our organization and we apologize for the harm these acts have caused. We further acknowledge that we have been slow to react to calls to confront white supremacy and are thankful to the voices in our community that have called upon us to do the right thing and commit to making changes.
The American Classical League and all its subsidiary committees state unequivocally that we stand in solidarity with all of our members, our students, and their families, especially those who have suffered from the systemic oppressions that have plagued our country and beyond. We condemn the violence and horrors that have been perpetrated against all Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color. Finally, we acknowledge that remaining silent is being complicit in the pain and suffering of the oppressed. We can do better. We must do better. We will do better.
We oppose the misappropriation of Classics and its related disciplines to promote racist agendas, white supremacy, or oppression in any form. For too long, Classics have been used to justify a wide variety of racist practices and beliefs in our country. For too long the ACL has been complicit. It is time that the American Classical League and all its subsidiaries stand up and hold ourselves accountable to dismantling white supremacy. Part of our educational mission now has to be a commitment to anti-racist pedagogy and restorative justice that actively works to dismantle the systemic oppression of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color. It is the duty of ACL members to combat and condemn the racist views that have been perpetuated and tolerated by ACL. The core values of ACL demand this.
Here are a few steps that the American Classical League has taken to acknowledge and address our past mistakes:
- Started the process of examining, identifying, and removing problematic materials from further distribution (e.g. NCLG materials that promoted Latin in an elitist fashion, JCL and ACL brochures that contained language promoting ideals of the “western civilization” construct, objectionable and offensive passages and questions from previous National Latin Exams, etc.).
- Began the critical internal work of examining our own structures, policies, and practices through an equity lens with the support of an outside consultant so that all decision-making at ACL prioritizes equity
- Engaged the NJCL Student Officers and NJCL National Committee in examining the current NJCL Creed and Song and had discussions regarding the established procedures to make changes to them. Please see this document, created by the 2019-2020 NJCL Student Officers.
- Created and populated a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force.
- Issued a statement to acknowledge the horror of activities that harm those who have been marginalized (e.g. Rent-A-Roman, a form of mock slave auction) and admonished all JCL membership chapters to put a stop to these activities immediately. Please see this statement from ACL about its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and this statement from NJCL to State Chairs about Rent-A-Roman.
However, the ACL recognizes that these steps are not enough. So, in addition to activities in progress, ACL plans to:
- Lift up members of the JCL who are of traditionally marginalized groups and promote their work, creations, and voices (e.g. The NJCL Certamen Voices Project).
- Educate our members to take a proactive stance in promoting antiracism in their classrooms by posting on our website information on valuable resources and materials that will be updated regularly by the beginning of 2020-2021 school year.
- Provide equity training to all incoming leadership team members and ongoing training for new and current members.
- Offer sessions focusing on social justice issues in the field of Classics during the annual ACL Institute.
- Continue to review previously published instructional and promotional materials and resources as well as to remove those that contain language that promotes the ideals of “western civilization,” white supremacy, elitism, or otherwise oppresses the voices of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color.
- Highlight the stories of oppression and wrongdoing within the Classics community and provide a forum for those who are willing to share their stories, including stories that involve wrongdoing by the ACL.
- Develop and implement an organization-wide decision-making tool focused on equity that lifts up our mistakes and blind spots, so we may acknowledge them, repair, and grow.
- Examine barriers that have hindered participation in events and conferences in the past and take actions to prepare a report on those barriers to be addressed by January 2021.
- Be accountable to a transformed culture where teachers and students who are Black, Indigenous and other People of Color can thrive in the work of ACL/JCL at all levels, including in our leadership and publications.
- Commit to examine future materials before publication within the equity-focused decision-making tool described above to ensure they do not perpetuate racism and oppression.
- Donate to organizations that lift the voices of people of color both within the Classics and outside them (e.g. NAACP, monthly donation to Sportula, etc.).
- Make the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force a standing committee by the end of the 2020 ACL Virtual Institute and repopulate the committee. ACL has underutilized the DEI Task Force, not having given it a clear charge during its nascent stage, but recommits to work with the DEI Standing Committee to create a vision and mission for the DEI that is independent of helping other committees’ optics by July 15th.
- Ask all subsidiaries and committees to review past and present practices and identify at least one area of growth in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion and present it to the Board of Governors by July 15th.
- Create a method for transparency to keep membership aware of ongoing changes and improvements to ACL, as well as our intentions and our actions, by regularly publishing steps, actions and reflection; by creating a place to anonymously voice concerns; and by publishing calls for nominations of committee members in all our publications.
- Solicit and welcome input and suggestions for further actions from current members and also non-members, both anonymously and in open meetings, that will make ACL more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
The American Classical League and all its subsidiaries are committed to actions that promote antiracism in the field of Classics. Further, the American Classical League’s commitment to community means creating a community of teachers and students of Classics where all—not just some—are welcomed and supported. To that end, we will aspire to foster a new generation of Classics scholars who will be empowered to stand at life’s intersections with the fortitude and capacity to build the genuine and just community our core values call us to create. We must all work together to acknowledge the harm and heal the hurt, strive for collective empathy, and find a transformed way forward.
While the study of ancient Latin and Greek literature, language, arts, and culture enables a greater appreciation for humanity, it also showcases the pain and suffering of oppressed people throughout the classical and modern worlds. With a deep desire to fight oppression in all forms, ACL reaffirms its commitment to social justice in the classroom, in the country, and beyond.