The Association for Computers and the Humanities stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest movement. As members of an organization based in a country with a long history of systematic racialized violence, we are outraged by continued state-sanctioned violence against Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color (BIPOC), among whose most recent victims are George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and so many others. We are distraught by the tactics that militarized police forces have brought to bear upon protestors standing up for the rights of Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color, and we join nationwide and worldwide calls for justice for the perpetrators of these violent acts.
We recognize that anti-Blackness operates through institutions and organizational structures, and that the fight for Black Lives Matters must extend to praxis in the academic sphere and to our scholarly organizations. As noted on its website, ACH “recognizes that the digital humanities is inherently and inextricably sociopolitical, and thus advocates for social change through the use of computers and related technologies in the study of humanistic subjects.” We commit to our DH being a force for racial and other social justice both within and beyond academia.
ACH has in the past committed itself to concrete steps in support of anti-racist practice, including:
- Establishing an ACH conference that has a strong emphasis on creating real opportunities for community knowledge exchange, solidarity, and diversity of representation;
- Ensuring that there is racial and gender diversity among nominees to the ACH Executive Council;
- Creating a registration fee structure for all ACH events that is maximally inclusive across the economic spectrum;
- Supporting the open-access Digital Humanities Quarterly journal, which publishes on issues related to structural racism such as the upcoming special issue on “Between DH and Me: Black DH in/for the Rising DH Generation”;
- Advocating at the international level of ADHO for diversity of representation and real inclusion, particularly at the annual conference.
The ACH Executive Committee is now adopting a set of actions that will deepen the organization’s commitment to anti-racist principles and that will help us understand and undo ACH’s role in anti-Blackness. We aim to push against systemic racism to concretely improve the experience that scholars of color have in our community by amplifying and supporting the voices of our Black, Indigenous and People of Color colleagues, centering BIPOC experiences in discussions of digital humanities, and reviewing our internal organizational culture to ensure the full and welcome participation of BIPOC voices.
The ACH Executive Officers and Executive Council will begin work now on the following set of initial actions and will provide updates in early August following our annual Executive Council and general membership meetings, at which we hope to gather additional feedback:
- Engaging a paid external consultant to conduct a systematic review of ACH policies and organizational culture as it relates to issues of structural racism, particularly in connection with the ACH conference, publications, governance, and leadership. ACH will make the results of this review public and will commit to taking action based on the review;
- Creating a mentorship program that provides venues and opportunities for a more diverse scholarly community to emerge — from undergrad, to grad, and into the professions in and beyond the academy;
- Committing to amplifying and celebrating DH scholarship by scholars of color in our newsletters and other publications, centering such work in the larger field of digital humanities;
- Foregrounding issues of diversity and racial justice, in all of their dimensions, into the ACH Guidelines for Assessment of Digital Scholarship in Tenure and Promotion such that they become critical parts of what is expected in digital scholarship and are valued equally for career advancement;
- Correcting the historical racial imbalance of keynote speakers at ACH/ADHO conferences by inviting BIPOC DH scholars to keynote ACH events until an overall balance is achieved;
- Establishing an appeals process for the review phase of the ACH conference that will provide an institutionalized process for proposers, reviewers, and Program Committee members to dispute reviews that evince racism and xenophobia towards proposals. This process will include a plan for resolution of such cases that will involve the removal of reviewers from the reviewer pool for violations;
- Developing a Code of Conduct for the ACH conference that responds to the external review of ACH policies mentioned above;
- Reporting regularly on the current and past demographics of ACH leadership to increase transparency and ensure that the organization makes progress on creating a diverse organizational leadership team;
- Publishing at least one special issue in Digital Humanities Quarterly every two years on a topic explicitly related to race and its relationship to additional axes of oppression, including gender, sexuality, disability, nationality, and language;
- Writing a values statement and a DEI/anti-racism statement for ACH that formalizes the values to which ACH commits itself;
- Developing a guide to help DH centers, labs, developers, and other technologists be mindful of racially-charged technical terminology (slave/master, whitelist/blacklist, etc.) with practical steps for moving away from these terms; and
- Reporting back to the ACH community at its annual general meeting on our progress on all of the above.
Black Lives Matter is a call to organizations not just to improve the world, but to improve themselves. We commit ourselves to that work and hope that we will earn your trust and your participation in building a more just organizational culture.