Essays academic service


A discussion on racial and ethnic discrimination

After presenting together at ACRL 2015 to share research we conducted on race, identity, and diversity in academic librarianship, we reconvene panelists Ione T. Resuming the conversation that started at ACRL, we discuss why diversity really matters to academic libraries, librarians, and the profession, and where to go from here.

We conclude this article with a series of questions for readers to consider, share, and discuss among colleagues to continue and advance the conversation on diversity in libraries. The hour-long, standing-room only session scraped the surface of conversations that are needed among academic librarians on issues of diversity, institutional racism, microaggressions, identity, and intersectionality.

It was our intent with the ACRL panel to plant the seeds for these conversations and for critical thought in these areas to further germinate.

  • One model embedded such a relational approach is the cultural adaptation model, in which health disparities are the product of changes and challenges experienced through acculturation and migration processes;
  • What innovative ways can we educate and teach colleagues and students about complex issues like microaggressions, institutional racism, and privilege, reflecting both traditional means of teaching such as lectures and readings, and through learned experiences?
  • Blacks are far more skeptical than whites and Hispanics about the prospect for racial equality;
  • First, we found that 69.

These conversations must continue to grow. The discussion of racial and ethnic diversity in libraries is a subset of the larger discussion of race in the United States. For anyone participating in these discussions, the experience can be difficult and uncomfortable. Such discussions can be academic in nature, but very often they are personal and subjective. In the United States, our long history of avoiding difficult and meaningful conversations about race has made it challenging for some people to perceive or comprehend disparities in representation and privilege.

Fear often plays a significant role as a barrier to engaging in these conversations. Fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of change, and the perceived possibility of losing control can complicate these discussions. Participants in these conversations have to be willing to concede a certain amount of vulnerability in order to move the discussion forward, but vulnerability makes many people uncomfortable, which in turn makes it easy to just avoid the discussion altogether.

What follows is a virtual roundtable discussion where we speak openly about why diversity really matters, what actions can be taken, and suggest questions for readers to a discussion on racial and ethnic discrimination, share, and discuss in honest and open conversations with colleagues.

At times, authors reveal the very real struggle to articulate or grapple with the questions, just as one might encounter in a face-to-face conversation. Before launching into the roundtable discussion, we acknowledge that an additional challenge when talking about race is the use of terminology and language that intellectualizes some of the real-world experiences and feelings we face.

Terminology is useful due to its ability to create precision in meaning, but it also can alienate and turn away readers who use different language or terms to express similar experiences, feelings, or concepts. Yet in order to have a critical discussion of race and diversity, it is important that we engage in the use of particular terms that help us to identify, explain, and analyze issues and experiences that will help us to advance the conversation in deeper and more meaningful ways.

Why does diversity matter? When the question was first posed to us, I struggled with articulating a response that was more than just an intuitive reaction. This is then immediately followed by a process of checking my emotions to find ways to articulate myself in an intellectual way as a means to be acknowledged and understood.

As a person of color, this is what discussing the relevance and meaning behind diversity means to me — a struggle between gut reaction and articulation. This question is a challenge.

On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart

Nevertheless, most people who come into this profession want to be of service directly or indirectly to others. Libraries of every variety exist to serve their respective constituents through access to information and spaces for collaboration. With that in mind, I think diversity matters in relation to the relevance of services being provided to meet practical and extraordinary needs.

Needs that are diverse not only because of ethnicity and race, but also because of religion, gender, socioeconomic status, physical ability, etc. With recent headlines related to racism and violence, it is easy to see the connectivity of libraries in the pursuit of social justice ideals. These are large and lofty issues in scope.

I often think their enormity makes us dismissive of the tangible impacts of diversity in the commonplace work performed in libraries every day. Perhaps mountains were not moved, but to the individuals who benefitted hills were climbed. Juleah, Azusa, and I have been using identity theory to think about diversity initiatives from an angle a discussion on racial and ethnic discrimination takes into account the individual experience at a more fundamental level.

Because identity is so dynamic and in constant flux, it is often constructed from the internal sense of self as well as the external, social level. Consider it like the messages we internalize from what we see on tv, read in history books or who possesses roles of authority in our institutions, who sits at the reference desk.

It makes sense that your colleagues customize their instruction because we intuitively sense that people respond positively to another person who is like themselves. Ethnic identity theory helps us understand this phenomenon. As Dracine says above, diversity matters because the libraries must accommodate diverse user groups as well as librarian population.

Ione mentioned during our panel how the field of Library and Information Science LIS and higher education in general views diversity as a problem to be solved Swanson, et al.

Diversity, in race, ethnicity, sexuality, age, social background, and more, will bring power to the libraries where balanced views and all kinds of possibilities are inevitable for successful research and teaching. Diversity is not a problem, but an asset for the institution.

  1. The hour-long, standing-room only session scraped the surface of conversations that are needed among academic librarians on issues of diversity, institutional racism, microaggressions, identity, and intersectionality. When the question was first posed to us, I struggled with articulating a response that was more than just an intuitive reaction.
  2. Racial discrimination and health.
  3. By understanding diversity, including racial diversity, through a framework that is sensitive to how it is always already constituted through these other intersections, we can forge multiple coalitions in ways that are complex, nuanced, and durable. It is noteworthy to mention that 26.
  4. Is there a particular deficit in the LIS profession itself that is not attractive to people of color to pursue?
  5. It was our intent with the ACRL panel to plant the seeds for these conversations and for critical thought in these areas to further germinate. I think as we move as a society to undo oppression of marginalized identities, libraries, as places that serve larger communities, do bear a responsibility to undo their own oppressive structures and question why things have stayed the same over the years in our profession.

To be honest, I think our profession, librarians as a whole, but more specifically academic librarians, are in the midst of a professional culture crisis. I think this stems from the homogeneity within our professional ranks. What we get to do as academic librarians today is incredible, from pushing our campuses into open access models for research output to being active participants in conversations about managing massive amounts of data.

  • As we continue to build on efforts to diversify the LIS field, I think looking at other strategies, interrogating the current field and its practices, and asking questions such as how do we make LIS more culturally relevant and what alternative pathways can be developed to increase recruitment and retention of people of color and other marginalized groups are important facets for us to consider;
  • Ever practical, I would ask readers to contemplate the context of their environment and remember the difficulty we all have with engaging this topic;
  • ABSTRACT A recent and comprehensive review of the use of race and ethnicity in research that address health disparities in epidemiology and public health is provided;
  • We conclude this article with a series of questions for readers to consider, share, and discuss among colleagues to continue and advance the conversation on diversity in libraries.

But are we proud of the homogeneity and the stagnant racial and ethnic diversity within the profession? I think diversity matters because, right now, it allows us the opportunity to reinvent our organizational and professional culture into something that is not reliant on homogeneity of people and ideas, but rather looks toward what we bring to the future of higher education.

I think her first point about libraries and social justice poses difficult questions for us as a profession—how far do we take social responsibility as academic libraries? How do we reconcile social responsibility with the missions of our institutions, and what do we do when they are out a discussion on racial and ethnic discrimination alignment?

Connecting these to her second point, internally, how far do we take a social justice concept of diversity in terms of our daily work as librarians? Can we even agree upon a definition of social justice in terms of diversity? I think Todd raised an important question during the panel Swanson, et al. Is racial equity part of an institutional mission?

I think as we move as a society to undo oppression of marginalized identities, libraries, as places that serve larger communities, do bear a responsibility to undo their own oppressive structures and question why things have stayed the same over the years in our profession.

Diversity matters because we all play a part in the messages we disseminate, regardless of how we identify.

Librarians contribute towards the preservation and accessibility of information, representations of authority in the intellectual sphere, and advocating against censorship. What is the message that our collections, library staff representation, research, or programming gives to the communities we serve?

Pagination

In other words, as an institution that collects, preserves, and distributes information, libraries serve the function of helping to create and circulate knowledge in our society. How institutions construct and curate information, and how users access and synthesize that information, are not outside the realm of the political.

Especially in the case of academic libraries, which encompass a scholarly mission of furthering intellectual growth and scholarly communication, thinking carefully and deeply about the types of knowledge that is both included and excluded is crucial to the mission of the library and its relation to broader society.

Preparatory High School in the south side of Chicago where she mentions how the famous American author Richard Wright was not being allowed to check out books at the public library because he was black Obama, 2015. That example also reminds me of how E.

Josey, writing in 1972, identified academic libraries as having a unique role to play in the black liberation movement. Even today, as higher education continues to be a site of privilege for some and exclusion for others, diversity and educational equity is something that we still need to work on.

For example, many businesses highlight the importance of being able to work effectively in a global market, a discussion on racial and ethnic discrimination higher education has followed that line of thinking in terms of promoting diversity as a way of building student competence in intercultural interactions as a key component of their college education.

Another reason diversity is often touted as a component of an effective workplace is that studies have shown that more often than not, more diverse work teams have proven to be highly productive. But I find these market-driven motivations for promoting diversity to be very superficial and highly problematic.

Failure to think about how diverse communities have been and continue to be impacted by such trends, and along with it the perpetuation of the implicit race and class privileges, will only lead to the further homogenization and privatization of places, practices, and services. People of color as well as other disenfranchised groups are more than just laboring bodies, more than just token representatives of a diverse workforce under the conditions of capitalism, but also possess, practice, and embody different ways of understanding and inhabiting the world, which as Juleah points out, can help to reinvent the culture of the library, and higher education, more generally.

It is this possibility of transformation that I think is why diversity matters. We could spend more time on this question, but similar to a time limit in a real world discussion, we have a word count.

  • Crucial to such a consideration is identifying where power lies;
  • Ethnicity, socio-economic status and health research;
  • Inappropriate labeling in research on race, ethnicity, and health.

Where do we go from here? Often times, after engaging in critical discourse, when the conversation ends, we are left wondering what to do next. Now that we have touched about why diversity matters, where do we go from here? Participating in the ACRL panel really challenged me to think about my own approaches to researching diversity, which had previously been focused on understanding the experiences of individuals of color. However, as Todd had pointed out during the panel Swanson, et al.

Listening to the experiences of those who have been marginalized 3 may motivate us to move towards a more socially just world, but developing critical competencies and deepening our knowledge base in critical theory can give us the tools to actually dismantle those structures that have marginalized them in the first place.

During the panel, I made a comment regarding my own relief upon hearing my director say diversity was not my issue Swanson, et al.

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For me this was important because even as a librarian of color my professional expertise is not diversity. However, if you want to talk about getting Arabic language books through U.

I care about diversity for the very reasons that have been discussed and definitely want to leave the profession better than I found it. The biggest takeaway for me was the obvious need for a reset or a refresh on the question of diversity in libraries.

Arm yourself with knowledge, and then have the courage to use that knowledge to start dialogues with your colleagues, administrators, faculty, and staff, not just in your library but across your campuses to examine existing policies and practices that have left far too much room for discrimination both implicit and explicit to occur. And I mention courage because these are not easy conversations to have, or even to initiate.

Another thing I would recommend is seeking out other campus partners with expertise in mediating these types of conversations. It was a very small step, and it did not transform our campus culture overall, but I do think it helped create a network of people across the university who obviously cared about bridging differences in order to improve our overall campus climate.

Through that a discussion on racial and ethnic discrimination, I met people with whom I have since worked on initiatives and programs related to diversity. My institution did diversity dialogues in collaboration with campus partners and the sessions include the perspectives from people of different experiences and backgrounds. The LIS Microaggressions tumbr project reminds us that we are all capable of demeaning someone despite our best intentions, but we also have the opportunity to truly listen when we are being called out, being humbled by the experience, and learning from it.

At a personal level, this one thing we can and must all do — listen.

Why Diversity Matters: A Roundtable Discussion on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Librarianship

One of the important points that was discussed at the panel and that we continue to discuss here is trying to come up with ways to transform both the profession and the various institutions that we work at. Crucial to such a consideration is identifying where power lies. Of course, we all exercise power in different ways. The key is to figure out how to exercise our power to make lasting, sustainable change at the structural level.

We need to create movements and build alliances, and this often entails creative forms of coalition building. Although I suppose all forms of coalition are creative. Ruth Wilson Gilmore 2007 makes a point of stressing that we need to identify both likely and unlikely allies. We need to be better about doing that in the LIS field. I think such a strategy can be effective in building alliances within and between different constituent groups in the LIS fields. So even though ALA or the profession is predominantly white, that whiteness is not monolithic.

It is inflected through categories such as class, gender, sexuality, religion, ability, etc.