The CAIS Executive is deeply disturbed by, and condemns, the recent events concerning police violence and anti-Black racism in the United States and Canada.
We stand in solidarity and alliance with Black communities, our Black students, colleagues, and staff on our different campuses and affirm our commitment to combatting anti-Black racism and to being outspoken on anti-racism in general to help make the world, our associations, our campuses and our classrooms better and inclusive places.
Although difficult, this moment is an opportunity to call attention to what we need to do to teach about Italy and Canada (in the Italian-Canadian context for example) and their roles, past and present, in colonialism, in racist attitudes in particular towards Black citizens and migrants.
As scholars in Italian Studies, we also acknowledge the lack of diversity in the composition of full-time faculty members in our field and our own Executive, which remains predominantly white. We support affirmative action policies that promote the hiring of Black faculty in campuses across Canada and in our own programs.
While statements of solidarity and alliance are important, we need action. As essential first steps, the CAIS is proposing the following in the short and long term:
a) sessions on Black Italy for our CAIS conferences including for the upcoming 2021 conference; Black Italy could be a topic for our next conference in 2021;
b) inviting guest speakers or keynotes who can lecture on anti-Black racism in the Italian context;
c) dedicating an issue of Quaderni to the specific topic of Black Italy to promote knowledge of Italy’s history of systemic racism; questions related to this in the diaspora will also be of great importance and will be included;
d) taking steps to ensure that our annual conference is not held in spaces that have promoted/continue to promote racism;
e) taking steps to ensure more diversity in our membership, on our executive, on committees and on our board;
f) encouraging colleagues in Italian Studies across Canada (some of whom already do this) to teach about colonialism and racism, past and present, in Italy especially toward Black people; and encouraging colleagues to include Black Italy in syllabi for their courses, for example, in Italian culture, history, literature, cinema, etc.
As a final note, the CAIS Executive will be making a donation to: Black Mental Health Matters: A Fund for Black Therapists: This fund, which was started by a group of Black therapists and wellness professionals from The Healing Collective in Toronto, supports Black-led low to no-cost mental health workshops in Canada.
We also encourage our members to consider making a donation to this group or to other groups promoting equity for Black communities in Canada.
Our role and our voices as academics are important ones and this is the moment for us to act against the injustices that are happening in front of our very eyes to our friends, colleagues, students and their loved ones. Staying silent contributes to the problem.
We welcome feedback from our members. Please let us know about other ideas and initiatives you may have.
Professor Roberta Iannacito-Provenzano
President, Canadian Association for Italian Studies