[The following letter was issued by the Board of Directors of the Middle East Studies Association on 29 June 2020 in response to the recent uprisings in the United States and around the world against systemic anti-Blackness.]
Black lives matter. We deplore the state-sanctioned murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and the countless Black people dying and suffering from systemic racism and police brutality in the United States. We stand in solidarity with the global and national uprisings demanding basic freedoms and human rights for Black people. We condemn the U.S. government’s violent response to these protests and the police brutality that preceded them. The militarization of U.S. streets, the state-sponsored attacks on journalists and the free press, and the destruction of Black lives in America resonate with the experiences of people living under authoritarian regimes and U.S. imperialism in the Middle East.
We stand in solidarity with our Black American members, as well as with Black and Afro-Diasporic members in the United States, Canada, the Middle East and North Africa. We recognize the daily threat of violence that Black people face from the police, the state, and society.
Declaring our solidarity is not enough. MESA pledges to oppose anti-Black racist violence by addressing the structural injustice at work in our own organization, in the field of Middle East studies, and among communities in the region. As scholars in Middle East studies, Africana studies, and Islamic studies have taught us, this is a moment of reckoning with anti-Blackness and its entrenched history in our fields, classrooms, and communities in the region and diaspora. Now is the time to turn to anti-racist activists, as well as colleagues in Black Studies and Indigenous Studies for guidance on dismantling white supremacy.
This work extends well beyond the United States. We cannot speak out against the murders of Black people on U.S. soil without also condemning those occurring in the Middle East and North Africa. We cannot decry the systemic racism in the United States without also condemning it in the Middle East and North Africa. Black citizens of Middle East and North African states face legal, social, economic exclusion and discrimination on a daily basis. Furthermore, it is urgent to say the names of women like Faustina Tay, a Ghanaian domestic worker in Lebanon, subject to the systematic abuse of her employers, and left to die in a parking lot. Confronting the systematic racism and injustice of indentured labor in the Middle East and North Africa is a core component of the struggle against anti-Blackness.
Guided by the principles articulated here, we commit to eradicating anti-Blackness in our organization and in the knowledge we produce. We commit to reckoning with the long-marginalized history of Black slavery and its afterlives in the Middle East and North Africa.