It is common for us to feel invigorated by the annual conference, after hearing great papers, discussing innovative ideas, renewing relationships, and embracing a new resolve to do the work of making SHA a better organization that we all be proud of. Although our poster wasn’t officially sponsored by the Gender and Minority Affairs Committee (GMAC) (they helped to inspire it), Cheryl LaRoche and I presented on “Race and the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA): Steps Toward Claiming an Anti-Racist Institutional Identity.” It generated considerable interest, raised important issues, and will serve to support the board’s decision to embark on anti-racism training, for which they should be commended. The board’s commitment to doing this work is a bold step in an important direction that can truly transform our organization and make it more inclusive.
What follows is the text of our poster, a considerably condensed version of an essay we contributed to the Winter 2012 issue of the Newsletter.
Archaeology and Racial Hierarchy
Archaeologists know that racial hierarchy structures the material world, yet we have seldom considered how white privilege influences our practice.
The Whiteness of the SHA
White men created the SHA and structured it to meet their needs as members of white society. This is reflected in its personnel, programs, constituency, and mission, and the ways historical archaeologists are trained in the academy.
We all have been socialized in a racist society and consequently carry and perpetuate attitudes of either internalized racial oppression or internalized racial superiority. This socialization process serves to maintain racial hierarchy.
Transforming the Discipline
We can effectively address the racial disparities in our profession and begin to claim and put into practice an anti-racist organizational identity by examining the way we recruit students, foster their development, and inculcate academic values. In order to transform the SHA into a truly diverse and welcoming organization we must address the barriers to access that continue to maintain our organization’s white, male, heterosexual, and middle class membership and principles.
Our Collective Responsibility
The mission of seeking diversity involves all historical archaeologists and should be our collective goal as we work to transform our field and our organization in an effort to claim an anti-racist institutional identity.