The Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ Committee on Antiracism, Equity and Diversity was organized to focus the organization’s efforts toward the eradication of racism and the promotion of equity as a central practice and priority of SCMS. First convened as a task force in 2019, and reorganized as a standing committee in the following summer, the AED Committee uses the widely accepted definition of URM (Underrepresented Minority) status to shape its mission and recommendations to SCMS. Standing in solidarity with oppressed peoples worldwide, we are also attentive to the intentional and unintentional statistical conflation that often occurs in academic settings between international and US born scholars of color (1). We therefore focus our efforts upon the specific forms of racism that are visited upon American people of color who have inherited the burdens of this country’s histories of genocide, enslavement, colonialization, stolen wealth, and stolen land.
As such, the AED Committee is composed of African-American, Latinx, and Native and Indigenous film and media studies scholars working in active collaboration with one another to identify concrete and tangible policies and practices that will positively transform SCMS by creating greater visibility and substantial equity for scholars of color within the organization. The committee’s first report was presented to the SCMS Executive Board in the summer of 2019, and can be found here. The report included a slate of 8 recommendations for new practices and policies, all of which were accepted enthusiastically by the board. We have begun working in cooperation with the Board to implement these recommendations, which include:
- providing improved instructions on antiracism and equity to members of the Program Committee, (a measure that was undertaken last fall for the March ’20 conference, and which will be revisited and re-implemented for the coming fall);
- a new survey of the SCMS membership to include detailed demographic questions, which is scheduled for the coming months;
- redoubling our successful efforts to recruit Native and Indigenous Scholars via membership and registration incentives;
- applying the model for recruiting Native and Indigenous Scholars to pursue new members from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).
We recognize that much of the power of racism as a structuring ideology inheres in its ability to shift, adapt, revise and reimagine itself in new moments and contexts; as a result, the AED Committee and SCMS must lead with novel, responsive and resilient approaches to establishing and sustaining a variety of anti-racist policies. In this way, achieving the goals set by our mission means seeing clearly our commonality with other marginalized groups and minoritarian subjects in the academy and in SCMS. We thus welcome collaborations with SCMS’ vibrant and hard-working Caucuses, as well as with the Precarious Labor Organization and the Graduate Student Organization. We do not seek to benefit from “either/or” frameworks, nor to be pitted against other groups with their own distinct histories of oppression and struggle.
While we embrace this work with a clear sense of investment and intention, we also recognize the routine, disproportionate allocation of such service to people of color. If any of the changes we envision are to be sustainable and durable, it is incumbent upon our white colleagues to mobilize the power of their racial privilege and take an active part in this critical work for SCMS. SCMS is poorer and less rigorous for its homogeneity, yet racist ideology masks this truth, providing its subscribers with an uncritical imagining of the academy’s predominantly white spaces as inherently “excellent” and “best.” As a scholarly society we must actively transform ourselves against the grain of such logics, despite their prevalence throughout our world, our local institutions, our discipline, our nation, and the academy at large.
(1) “Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: A Status Report.” The American Council on Education and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, https://1xfsu31b52d33idlp13twtos-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Race-and-Ethnicity-in-Higher-Education.pdf, February 2019. See also “The Problematic Nature of Racial and Ethnic Categories in Higher Education,” Walter Allen, Chantal Jones and Channel McLewis, http://1xfsu31b52d33idlp13twtos-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/REHE-Essay-Chapter-1-SA.pdf, February 2019.
Desirée Garcia (Associate Professor, Dartmouth College)
Miriam Petty (Associate Professor, Northwestern University)
Bambi Haggins (Associate Professor, University of California, Irvine)
Joshua Nelson (Associate Professor, the University of Oklahoma)
Elizabeth Patton (Assistant Professor, University of Maryland BC)
Priscilla Peña Ovalle (Associate Professor, University of Oregon)
Kristen Warner (Associate Professor, University of Alabama)
Khadijah Costley-White (Assistant Professor, Rutgers University)