The meeting was held on Friday, February 5, 2021. Peyton Powell was the meeting convener.
Convenor Peyton Powell works at the Finkelstein Memorial Library, in Rockland county. She’s been an educator for 16 years, and is currently enrolled in the MLIS program at Queens college.
This is the third and final time Peyton is facilitating, and she’s glad to see familiar faces and a community forming around these EDI SIGs. If you would like to facilitate a future meeting, please reach out to Carolyn.
Today’s meeting builds on the article Nice White Meetings.
VIDEO CLIP: a clip from the office, “Did I stutter” in which white boss David repeatedly calls on a Black employee (Larry) to “weigh in” on a suggested idea for an “urban” outgoing message.
Bureaucracy: Bureaucratic practices self-present as equalizing and inclusive but in fact enshrine institutionalized practices that privilege white workers and exclude, minimize, or silence BIPOC.
The Critical Race Theory is a framework that was developed from a legal studies scholarship by BIPOC lawyers, scholars, and students (Leung and López-McKnight 2020, 19) and provides to us the vital language to understand and challenge embedded bureaucratic practices that too often disregard the knowledge and experiences BIPOC workers bring to their roles in the field.
Employing Critical Race Theory makes it clear that BIPOC library workers are the most negatively impacted by a system entrenched in whiteness.
Preparing for group work:
This is a space of grace. A safe place for people to express how they feel.
Group Discussion Guidance
Importance of including diversity in mission statements. Library boards should change over time to reflect the communities that they serve. They don’t shift unless they get pressure to change.
Example: library where current director is invested in diversity, includes in values statement, have openings, brings in candidates of color. When these candidates came, was only BIPOC person in the library, one other person came - then left. Hoping as boomers retire, composition could change.
Opportune moment, when we would hope for change - we have to get on it, en masse. The people in positions of power are aware that even if they are not focused on diversity and equity that moving forward with formal diversity initiatives, looking at equity in their institution, needs to be on their agendas. this is a horrible horrible time in the US. But hopefully it’s an opportunity to get voices for change to be heard.
Bouncing off idea of boomers retiring, should be more diverse folks coming in. But inequalities being exacerbated by economic hardship under the pandemic, folks losing work, having to leave school, losing access. Concern about how this will impact BIPOC trying to enter the profession.
So many thoughts about the pipeline, in hiring, there’s often an incredibly structured process. Have to have certain keywords in your resume that match keywords in the job description. All theoretically created in the name of “fairness” so there is not nepotism, favoritism, but the end result, because of institutional racism and oppression, is that it excludes, and privileges insiders who have knowledge of how that system works. How do we build into our hiring processes which do have certain requirements, alternate pathways to hiring. Question, would that make the position or person less valued because an alternate pathway taken?
At some libraries, lots of part-time jobs, which requires a certain degree of financial privilege to enter.
There are issue of mentorship within libraries, the problem of librarians mentoring “people like them.”
Important to note that problems extend beyond hiring. Say a BIPOC person went through school, got into a position, but then white colleagues or higher ups prevent advancement.
There was a very interesting webinar awhile back about hiring practices in libraries, it had a lot of good ideas about how we hire, recruit, and structure jobs.
Language of civil service exams, designed to speak to one group of people, white folks, who designed this exam
The oppressed are not supposed to be the ones who come up with the ways to not be oppressed.
Nice white meetings: you say something slightly outside the norm, or are passionate, you can be deemed “unprofessional”. If you get emotional, you can be get gaslighted, because bureaucracy requires this kind of dispassionate presentation.
As a woman, person of color, member of LGBTQ community, space to express yourself doesn’t exist, and if you do express yourself, you may then be avoided, made an outsider for expressing ideas or experiences outside of a dominant culture.
Meetings are seen as egalitarian spaces but the reality is that different genders, race, ages, levels of education, feel different ways about how they are able to occupy that space, how able to speak, who is heard.
“Characteristics of white supremacy culture” objectivity seen as characteristic of white supremacist culture and can be weaponized against people of color.
Having courage to be the person who calls someone out. How do we get further than a group that’s in a room. How, in a case in which someone does something problematic, can we confront in ways that are effective and don’t get caught in a bureaucratic vortex?
Zoom meetings are a great place to establish new rules. We don’t have to carry over our old rules. Chat offers another opportunity, for those not as comfortable speaking in a public, to contribute to the meeting.
Post it notes as an anonymous way to bring up concerns in a meeting. Gives you opportunity to participate without having to be on the spot.
Emotionality in meetings, seeing the way it is often targeted at women as a form of gaslighting, or minimizing a contribution.
Not wanting to be the “angry Black woman” may lead to holding back, not contributing or choosing very careful and circuitous routes to say something. Exhausting. How can we be truly authentic to ourselves and be accepted for who we are and how we present things?
End of Discussion
Closing Statement (Peyton’s notes)
The mission of this discussion is to remind ourselves that we are all human. And to be able to shift the focus to our similarities rather than our differences to be able to see the human in us all. But at the same time be aware that our differences mean opportunity for some but not for all.
We want to create a world where we recognize our privilege and use it to help others be successful.
In those moments of awareness let us remember the importance of creating equitable
Opportunities. To be mindful of who’s in the room, and whose presence is in the room is under constant threat of erasure.To be mindful of whose ideas are the most heard and whose ideas won’t be taken seriously because they aren’t in the majority.
To quote the article Nice White Meetings, “Bureaucratic systems function to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of a libraries mission and goals, however, these bureaucratic systems can have singularly disastrous effects on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, serving to preserve whiteness in libraries and requiring BIPOC to assimilate, suffer in silence, or leave.”
Identifying and openly naming the institutional racism inherent in libraries,
bureaucracies, and library bureaucracies not only allows us to better understand the
historical oppression of BIPOC workers, but to remember to ask the question “is this environment safe for everyone to feel like they belong, and whose safety is being sacrificed and minimalized to allow others to be comfortable?”
A Quote from TV Personality Bevy Smith sums it up well: “America has got to acknowledge the stain. This country has a stain, and the stain is racism. A stain is not something that ruins an outfit. A stain is something that can be acknowledged, and cured. Sometimes a stain is not something that goes all the way away, but at least it fades with acknowledgement.”
We are creating something great. Let us be the change that changes our world. We appreciate your continued support and Look out for an invitation to the next SIG.