Letter to the editor

Editor's note: The article "Pressure mounts for UB to take stance on 'White Only' art project" was published in the Nov. 11 issue of The Spectrum. 

We the undersigned faculty members in the Department of Transnational Studies, home of African and African American Studies at UB, would like to raise our voices in support of the position taken by the Black Student Union on the issue of race relations at our university.

In the last issue of The Spectrum, in an article Pressure mounts for UB to take a stance on ‘White Only’ art project, Department of Art Chair Jonathan Katz is quoted as saying that “he wasn’t surprised by the student reaction to the project, but that many in the arts department faculty ‘were incredulous that people don’t understand that this work is anti-racist.’ He said he’s ‘shocked’ to see what he considered a lack of understanding about what art is.” “An art department stands for freedom of expression,” Professor Katz told the Spectrum. He added, “You’ve got black students saying this hurt me and you’ve got racists saying this hurt me. That ought to tell you this is doing the right thing.”

We the undersigned support those students arguing that art cannot always be only for art’s sake and that while we all stand for freedom of expression that all freedoms have to be contextualized from the standpoint of inequitable power relations. Who and what are anti-racist have always been subject to reasonable interpretation and limits. With deference to some of our colleagues, we believe it should be for those who feel the sting of racism to determine what is racist or anti-racist and equally to speak up. Therefore we do not think that it is at all surprising that students would reason that black lives matter more than merely as artistic expressions but as lived reality in its entirety.

Cecil Foster, Professor, Director of Graduate Studies

Keith Griffler, Associate Professor, Chair

James Pappas, Associate Professor

Donald Grinde, Professor

Janina Brutt-Griffler, Professor

Munroe Eagles, Professor

Barbara Wejnert, Associate Professor

Y.G-M. Lulat, Associate Professor

Marla Segol, Associate Professor