A Commitment to Racial Justice
The Department of Religious Studies at UC Riverside is deeply committed to the creation of racial justice, the abolition of white supremacy and other forms of structural oppression – including forms of racism that travel hand-in-hand with religious bias and hate – and the decolonization of the academy and of our field. On our campus, on all UC campuses, and in our communities, we support the redirection of funds away from policing and toward approaches to public safety that address everyone’s safety and well-being. Although we engage with our communities in various ways within and beyond our jobs, as academics our greatest strengths and our greatest contributions often come from the insights we can offer from our research into the structures that form, buttress, maintain, and obscure structural racism; the tools we can give our students for their own work to abolish white supremacy; and the ways we engage in the classroom to foster an environment focused not simply on equity but more robustly on justice.
Members of our department have been engaged, individually and collectively, for several years in bringing this commitment to life in our programs of education and research. Many of us are involved in research that considers structures of power and their engagement with racism, white supremacy, and colonialism. In 2019 we introduced an overhauled graduate program that includes concentrations in transnational religions and analytics of power, both of which engage deeply with critical perspectives on race and colonialism. In 2021 we will launch a similarly structured revision to our undergraduate major and minor. We have introduced a pedagogy course into our graduate curriculum that considers, among other topics, the ways in which course design and teaching techniques can foster or impede racial justice, and we are developing a graduate course focused on recent efforts to decolonize the study of religion. As we look to the future, we have been developing plans to expand intentionally as a department that affirms and lives out these commitments. These plans include our work to regain our faculty strengths in African American religions that were lost following the 2008 recession, and our efforts to create an endowed chair in Native American religions whose holder will continue the legacy of the late UCSB professor, Dr. Inés Talamantez, within the UC system. We also stand firmly behind the Black Studies initiative at UCR and look forward to contributing to its development and success.
A commitment to racial justice must be ongoing and lived out. We affirm our commitment to keep learning, keep analyzing, keep teaching, and keep strategizing in the effort to create a just world and an anti-racist, anti-colonial academy.