Frame 1: Addressing and Interrogating How White Supremacy, White Privilege and Racism Show Up in Libraries
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 3 Engaging in antiracism is multifaceted. Understanding core ideas around racial equity is one of the first steps to laying a strong foundation for racial equity work and allows us to take individual actions into a holistic practice.
1.1 – Understanding Historical Inequities
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 9 The phenomenon of racism is not new, but rather is rooted in an historical trajectory of oppression and discrimination (based on racial/ethnic identity) that has its roots in imperialism and colonialism, and which has been supported by policies, misleading science, laws, norms, and religion for centuries. In order to understand the degree to which racism and white supremacy are embedded in contemporary systems, it is necessary to understand how systems of inequity have created and sustained disadvantage for BIPOC populations while rewarding those who identify as majority, or “white” with often unrecognized, unearned advantages. This system of white supremacy is rooted in a fabricated hierarchy of human value based on race and manifests even within communities of color. Although institutons such as slavery and colonialism have played out differently within the US and Canada, the resulting inequities and their impacts are consistent across those borders and are evidenced by disperate outcomes for BIPOC populations as they navigate threats to their survival via social systems (healthcare, education, criminal justice, housing, etc.).
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 1 Framework Implementation Example: Employees and patrons of a public library system in Ontario participate in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise to gain greater understanding of the history of oppression and genocide experienced by Indigenous populations in Canada.
I.2 – Methodologies for Self Assessment – Fundamental (Adjacent to Historical Inequities)
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 6 Including self-assessment in antiracist work is critical to the success of antiracist practice. Because our society is built upon systems that work to minoritize many people, we all have internalized forms of racism that we need to address. Including self-assessment allows us to see where our power and privilege shows in our work.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 4 Framework Implementation Example: Library staff can take any of the Implicit Association Tests related to race/ethnicity provided by Project Implicit at Harvard University.
I.3 – Libraries & Racial Equity
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 8 Our history is marked by instances in which we practiced exclusion, not inclusion, and offered services that for BIPOC individuals were actively crafted to be inequitable. This is evidenced throughout American history but nowhere more blatantly than in the establishment of the first “free libraries” in the US that were either not open to Black citizens or offered sub-standard services Even as physical structures in the early 20th century were built to provide library services to People of Color, the “Separate but equal” doctrine was applied at whim in tandem with governmental policies of the time that segregated, excluded, and harmed these communities. As Library workers, our foundational growth is supported by an ability to identify and acknowledge ways in which whiteness and white supremacy have impacted the field of librarianship. Experts are engaged in addressing and redressing the ways in which foundational inequities have had lasting and sustained impact on the profession.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 4 Framework Implementation Example: Conduct a policy audit to gauge whether any of your library’s policies are having a differential impact on communities of color. While outside of the LIS field, the City of Seattle,’s Race and Social Justice Initiative developed a toolkit that outlines a process for assessing whether a potential policy will have negative effects on BIPOC communities. The toolkit can be easily adapted for the LIS profession..
I.4 – The Language of Racial Equity & White Supremacy
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 2 The process of learning, understanding, and thinking critically about EDI terminology creates a consistency around shared language, and a deeper understanding of the ways that these core constructs show up in library work. Understanding core constructs such as racial identity, systemic racism, structural racism, equity, inclusion, diversity, and social justice– along with internalized oppression, antiracism.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 3 Framework Implementation Example: Host a forum in your library where employees research glossaries from anti-racist organizations to develop a list of terms and phrases related to racial equity and build concensus around those definitions for the community.
I.5 – The Competency Continuum
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 2 Libraries should approach racial equity and other types of EDI work not as an end but as a practice, understanding that racial equity work is an iterative process during which we are re-learning, re-envisioning, and rebuilding. As understanding evolves and contexts and vocabulary change, libraries must reassess and revisit their practices to ensure they remain relevant, fulfill their objective, and do not cause harm. To this end libraries need to have a clear and realistic plan to evaluate cultural competencies* within their organizations and must demonstrate openness to critically look inwards and make the necessary changes. Recognizing that libraries must actively interrogate their practices at all levels (individual, interpersonal, organizational, structural), they must continually explore how power is held and granted within their organizations to ensure an equitable distribution.
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 This process is reflected in the competency continuum illustrated in Figure 1, below. The diagram shows four broad categories for approaching the work moving from an awareness of the concept of racial identity (its historical, social construction, its development as a strategy to divide cross-racial alliances who were organizing for labor solidarity in colonial times), to understanding the contemporary manifestations or realizations of racism (e.g. anti-Black racism, mass incarceration, Indigenous invisibility). From understanding of how racism shows up historically and contemporaneously, we move to analyze the profound impacts of racism on communities of color, e.g. in disparities in access to quality healthcare, the “achievement gap” in education, the lack of generational wealth for communities of color, or the lack of representation in the library sector. Once we fully understand these principles, we can begin to explore the strategies–the behavioral, policy, and systems changes–that will bring about greater racial equity.
¶ 14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 2 * Please note that “competency” in this context does not mean that there is an ending to this process. The medical field has coined the term “cultural humility” to reflect an ongoing commitment to life-long learning, acknowledging and accepting our own limitations to cultural sensitivity, and recognizing power imbalances that exist in institutions and systems. The term “competency” is used above, with acknowledgement of both its ubiquity and its limitations.
¶ 15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 2 Framework Implementation Example : Develop strategies that support your organization in moving beyond cultural competence (attending a single training, or reading a few journals/articles that discuss EDI) to cultural proficiency (an on-going, sustained process that allows for continued growth and deeper understanding).