Letter from the Department of American Studies

The Amherst College American Studies Department has long been committed to the critical study of American society from diverse perspectives, work that defines race from its most theoretical postulations to its hard, concrete material meanings—including a legacy of violence that continues to imperil lives. Many in our community are unaware of what it is like to hear car door locks click as you pass by, to be scrutinized with suspicion when you enter a store, to be pulled over on the roadway for some inexplicable reason, and to fear with just cause those charged with protecting your safety.

We, therefore, support the efforts of those who also seek to educate the Amherst College community on these lived realities, such as the organizers of the Black Lives Matter campaign. Our community has grown increasingly diverse and there is inevitable friction that arises from living among others of different experiences, cultures, values, and historical perspectives. It sometimes challenges our most basic views and deeply entrenched understandings of our self and society. However, the opportunity to apprehend another’s perspective and, thus, see ourselves anew is the potential of this diversity that we need to realize.

We support the rights of all in our community to voice their opinions on matters of passionate interest to them. However, we urge all at Amherst to avoid forms of expression that seek to silence others and rely on destructive provocation, not on constructive dialogue.

We urge the Amherst community of students, faculty, staff, and administrators to use its collective intellect, creativity, and energy to imagine new methods and spaces for engaged, productive, and sustained dialogue about the critical issues that divide us. We must all hold ourselves accountable for creating an Amherst where we speak with conviction and listen with deference in a shared mission to learn from each other.


Robert T. Hayashi, Chair
Kiara Vigil
Leah Schmalzbauer
Carol Clark
Lisa Brooks
Wendy Bergoffen
Frank Couvares
Jan Dizard
Molly Mead
Karen Sanchez-Eppler
Solsiree del Moral
Sujani Reddy
Kevin Sweeney