As a member of the George Mason University community, the Carter School plays an integral role in building an educational environment that is committed to anti-racism and inclusive excellence. An anti-racist approach to higher education acknowledges the ways that individual, interpersonal, institutional, and structural manifestations of racism against Black,[i] Indigenous, and other people of color contribute to inequality and injustice in our classrooms, on our campuses, and in our communities. It strives to provide our community members with resources to interrupt cycles of racism so as to cultivate a more equitable, inclusive, and just environment for all of our students, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends, regardless of racial background.
An anti-racism approach is an active and ongoing, long-term process. In all our efforts, we uphold a commitment to creating honest, respectful, supportive, and healing spaces where members of our community can meaningfully dialogue and learn from each other’s lived experiences for the betterment of our entire community.
To be anti-racist means:
- To make constant, conscious decisions to interrupt racism and cultivate equity, inclusion, and justice for people of all racial backgrounds, and in particular those from Black communities and other communities of color, who are most likely to bear the direct and indirect costs of systems of White supremacy[ii];
- To interrogate histories of White supremacy and White-dominant culture[iii], and to examine the ways in which these histories have impacted our individual beliefs, our interpersonal relationships, our institutional and structural policies and processes, and our entire society;
- To make a commitment to being responsible for our own relationships to, and actions within, systems of racism and White supremacy; and
- To cultivate a practice of self-awareness and self-reflection that allows us to critically evaluate our own role in upholding White supremacy and identify the ways we can interrupt cycles of racism at the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and structural levels.
We acknowledge that an anti-racism approach must be intersectional, looking at how race, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, dis/ability, or other aspects of identity, as well as class exploitation, overlap to inform experiences with oppression or privilege, both interpersonally and systematically. Ultimately, an anti-racism approach recognizes every person’s inherent human dignity and entitlement to the economic, social, cultural, and political rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other international human rights instruments.
We believe that the work of anti-racism must be both a collective and individual effort, and that in cultivating an anti-racist approach to research, scholarship, and practice, our students will build a skillset rooted in principles of equity, inclusion, and justice that they will carry with them throughout their lives.[iv]
i Why is Black capitalized? Publishers are increasingly capitalizing Black when referring to people of African decent to acknowledge a history and racial identity (similar to the common capitalization of Asian or Latinx). Power dynamics and racist structures are imbedded in language. Capitalizing Black reclaims and recognizes Black personhood, history, and culture, wheras the lowercase “b” is merely an adjective or descriptor, such as black as a color. Some publishers and institutions are also choosing to capitalize White, as not doing so implies that Whiteness is “neutral” and the norm. Although there is concern that this is in line with White supremacists who capitalize “W” to signify White dominance, as noted by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, “we intentionally capitalize ‘White’ in part to invite people, and ourselves, to think deeply about the ways Whiteness survives—and is supported both explicitly and implicitly” (see Recognizing Race in Language: Why We Capitalize “Black” and “White” from the Center for the Study of Social Policy.)
ii White supremacy is a belief that White people are inherently superior to people of other races and ethnicities and should have power over them. White supremacy also refers to social, political, and economic systems that enable White people to maintain power over others. White supremacist beliefs and systems can be seen on a spectrum, with conscious or unconscious beliefs supporting White superiority or preference on one end, and a violent extremist ideology on the other.
iii White-dominant culture refers to the ways in which a White racialized identity and experience has been normalized and considered the standard to which all other identities and experiences are compared. “White-dominant culture also operates as a social mechanism that grants advantages to white people, since they can navigate society both by feeling normal and being viewed as normal. Persons who identify as white rarely have to think about their racial identity because they live within a culture where whiteness has been normalized” (see Talking about Race by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.)
iv For more information on how to continuously cultivate the practice of anti-racism, see this guide from the National Museum of African American History and Culture on how to be anti-racist.