[note: this post is a slightly edited version of an email message I sent to all the staff at my place of work (MPOW) on 6/1/2020.]
Last week, a colleague at MPOW shared some information on effective ways to be an ally. She shared those tips in response to the overtly racist incidents that occurred in various parts of the country in the last few days. However, these types of incidents are not limited to the last few days. Rather, they are the latest such incidents that have been publicized widely (many more aren’t) and are indicative of a much larger, systemic problem of racism and oppression that permeates the very fabric of this country. As a Black man in America, that these incidents continue to happen and at what I consider an alarming rate, leaves me in fear – literally – in fear for my life. For my very existence. EVERY. DAY.
I share here two pieces from the Brookings Institution that sum up the systemic devaluation of Black (and I would add and Brown) lives and their take on what’s needed to hold police accountable for the specific action in Minneapolis. There are many other such pieces, but I found these two to be good summaries.
In an email message from late last week, the president of my university referred to the institutional values of diversity, inclusion and respect. These are also the values we espouse specifically within the library. We also spent some time in recent years discussing how we live these values. These are not just some words on a shelf or on a website; rather there must be actions that accompany these words.
I also recognize my privilege. Here at MPOW I have privilege by virtue of my position and I would be remiss if I did not use this privilege for some awareness and, hopefully, some positive change. I hope this brief post with some resources and additional tips will help you to be more engaged in the work of anti-racism. There are many ways to be involved and you should choose the path that is best for you. Understand that the work of being an anti-racist is difficult and it can be uncomfortable, but it is exactly at those moments of discomfort when the work can be most effective.
Diversity trainer, Jane Elliott, created a video, of which I am sharing only a clip. But this clip is powerful in its description of being a non-racist (her term). Condemning acts of racism is essential – as is taking other appropriate action.
But what does getting involved look like? There are many ways to be involved in anti-racist work. Below are some resources that may be helpful.
- Ask yourselves these questions (prepared by Jane Elliott, again, using her term of being “non-racist”)
- Use the anti-racism resources prepared by Dr. Nicole Cooke, the Augusta Baker Chair of the LIS program at the University of South Carolina
- Learn from the information found on the National Museum of African American History & Culture’s web portal, “Talking About Race.”
In addition, there are many organizations working on both the local and national levels to combat racism. Some of these organizations include:
This is not an exhaustive list by any means and I am not suggesting you work with *these* organizations. However, they are examples of some organizations with which you may wish to consult.
Combatting racism to create the “just society” to which my university president (and so many others) refer requires work from all of us. I hope you will join me in this work that is so important for a better future.