President Biddy Martin announced Amherst’s anti-racism plan in August of 2020, in the aftermath of a series of brutal racist incidents that had recently taken place in the United States. These events brought heightened attention to the issue of systemic racism and related violence in this country and engendered widespread protests. “There are critical moments in history when the call for change is resounding,” the president wrote at the time. “This is one of those moments.” The anti-racism plan for the provost’s division emerged, and was shaped, in response to the call for action of the president and many other members of the Amherst community—a call for the college to take steps to confront and remedy racism at all levels, and to foster equity and inclusion across the college.
The urgency of addressing racism, at the college and in the world beyond, underpins this plan, the goal of which is to support everyone in the provost’s division in moving forward with anti-racism work—thoughtfully, deliberately, inclusively, and expeditiously. The process of developing the plan was itself grounded in these qualities. The Provost’s Anti-Racism Leadership Group* drafted the plan, which was shared with a variety of groups, including department heads and all staff in the division; the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; the Faculty Leadership Committee for the Anti-Racism Plan; Black@Amherst; the Committee of Six; and the chairs of academic departments and programs. The generous feedback offered by these constituencies informed each of the successive versions of the plan. The final document owes a tremendous debt to this iterative process.
The plan is meant to serve as an invitation, and to offer some pathways, for faculty and staff to explore and understand the past and present of race and racism and the impact on individuals and society. Given the lived experiences of many of our students, this work—which may be undertaken individually, in small groups, within departments, and across the college—takes on additional importance. In keeping with the values of the liberal arts, the plan does not seek to promote an orthodoxy or mandate agreement. Instead it is meant to encourage learning, to stimulate the exchange of different views, and to foster inquiry about, as well as to invite action on, these critically important and pressing matters.