MSU Campus Archaeology Program Director’s Statement
Since March 2020, our world here in Michigan and in the United States has come undone. Inequities invisible to some but known and repeatedly experienced by people of color, particularly Black Michiganders, in the past and present have been laid bare before our feet. To date, 18,229 Black Michiganders, who constitute 14.1% of the state’s population, have contracted COVID-19. In contrast, 21,968 White Michiganders have contracted COVID-19, while they make up 79.3% of the state. 2,897 White Michiganders have died of COVID-19, while 2,248 Black Michiganders have passed of it to date. To state it bluntly, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black Americans in our state.
These gross inequities are the result of systemic racial violence enacted against communities of color in our state and country. Black communities are more likely to be subjected to police and government surveillance as well as policing tactics that involve the use of militarized equipment and technologies that increase rather than decrease the likelihood of injury and death. Black Americans constitute 40% of the incarcerated population while they represent only 13% of the American population. Black men are more likely to die at the hands of police than any other group of people in the United States. Exacerbating these issues is the fact that Black communities in Michigan are less likely to have access to clean water, food, and affordable healthcare, medication, and housing.
Black Americans who have kept the state and country operating and safe amid COVID-19 have also been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Jason Hargrove, a bus driver in Detroit who worked during the pandemic, lost his life to COVID-19 after a woman passenger on his bus coughed near him without covering her face. In other states, Blacks on the front lines have also faced the dual injustices of experiencing racism and violence while potentially sacrificing their lives working during a pandemic. Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician (EMT) working to save lives during the COVID-19 crisis, was shot while sleeping in her home in Kentucky by police. Her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the wake of her death. Even when Black Americans have sought to help others in the most trying of times, they are still faced with the ugly stain of racism that we should all be decrying in this country.
We, at CAP, recognize Black communities are already acutely aware of these statistics and lived realities. We are writing because we are making a promise to make internal changes to work towards addressing and eradicating white supremacy in our work, in the culture of the archaeologists we train, and in academia as a whole. Though we are still working on identifying how we can better serve communities of color on MSU’s campus in the coming years, we commit to enacting the following policies in the year to come:
- Diversity training when new staff join CAP that is evidence-based and confronts the specific legacy of racism and sexual harassment in the discipline of archaeology.
- Listening sessions with the students and communities of color we serve on and off-campus to inform and improve programming and outreach work.
- Dedicating a minimum of one blog post a month during the academic year to the history of communities of color on MSU’s campus and/or identifying and amplifying the work of archaeologists of color.
- A lecture on the history of race relations on campus at the beginning of every CAP field archaeology school.
We, at the MSU Campus Archaeology Program, have spent much of this year in reflection regarding our role on campus and in a society rife with violence. We underserve some communities and overserve others. As we move forward, we refuse to be bystanders to the violence enacted against Black Americans and people of color. We pledge to do better, to learn and listen, and, in doing so, stand with the Black Lives Movement.
For those of you who wish to join us in working towards justice and equality, we encourage you to read critical interventions on the archaeology of African Americans, the African diaspora, and on the archaeology of race. Our list is just a small sample of the many readings out there on this topic. We intend to expand upon it in the coming months and we welcome suggested additions to the list.
Dr. Stacey L. Camp and the CAP Staff
Tobacco, Pipes, and Race in Colonial Virginia by Anna S. Agbe-Davies
The Materiality of Freedom: Archaeologies of Postemancipation Life edited by Jodi A. Barnes
Black Feminist Archaeology by Whitney Battle-Baptiste
The Taphonomy of Disaster and the (Re)Formation of New Orleans by Shannon Lee Dawdy
Toward an Antiracist Archaeology by Mia L. Carey
Assessing Heritage Resources in St. Croix Post‐Hurricanes Irma and Maria by Justin P. Dunnavant, Ayana Omilade Flewellen, Alexandra Jones, Alicia Odewale, and William White
Critical Race Theory and the Archaeology of the African Diaspora by Terrence Epperson
A Black Feminist-Inspired Archaeology? by Maria Franklin
The Rosewood Massacre: An Archaeology and History of Intersectional Violence by Edward González-Tennant
Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance by Cheryl Janifer LaRoche
Archaeologies of Race and Urban Poverty: The Politics of Slumming, Engagement, and the Color Line by Paul R. Mullins and Lewis C. Jones
Archaeology for the Next Generation by Alicia Odewale, Justin Dunnavant, Ayana Flewellen, and Alexandra Jones
The Archaeology of Race and Racialization in Historic America by Charles E. Orser, Jr.
Detroit 139: Archaeology and the Future-Making of a Post- Industrial City by Krysta Ryzewski
Slavery behind the Wall: An Archaeology of a Cuban Coffee Plantation by Theresa A. Singleton
The Archaeology of Antislavery Resistance by Terrance Weik
The Archaeology of Mothering: An African-American Midwife’s Tale by Laurie Wilkie