The Western Literature Association (WLA) is in solidarity with Black communities, after the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and the ongoing pattern of systemic racism and injustice that targets black and brown bodies. We recognize, as well, that the United States is built on a history of stolen lands and bodies and that Indigenous people, as well as other people of color, are targeted by racial violence. In light of these dark realities, we support the right to freedom of speech and the outcry against continuing patterns of government and police violence that has led to protests across the nation. They are both righteous and necessary.
As an organization, the WLA supports those fighting the racism, historical oppression, and structural injustices so deeply embedded in the United States. We mourn those who have been murdered as well as the senseless violence enacted against those voicing their grief and anger.
This is more than our commitment to celebrating the diverse voices and experiences of the American West: it is also our duty as an organization with its own social privilege. With recent WLA conferences held in Minneapolis (2017) and St. Louis (2018), we have enjoyed the hospitality of the communities that were home to George Floyd, Philando Castile, and Michael Brown. In their memory, we say their names and condemn the acts of violence that ended their lives. The institutions and laws of this country have failed individuals and communities of color, and we recognize the need to address such systemic racism and every act of violence it engenders.
The WLA donated a portion of the registration fees from the 2020 conference meeting to an organization dedicated to social justice, antiracism, and the promotion of equitable political and social practices for Black communities to demonstrate our solidarity. We also encourage scholars to continue their support of Black communities in their classrooms; as educators we can facilitate difficult but necessary conversations and through our syllabi provide spaces for Black voices.