Response Post to “White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS”

The Opinion Piece can be read here 

My original Response posted in the comments October 14th, 2015 – Below has a few grammatical edits 

I hope this find you well, thank you for opening up this dialogue. My preference is a conversation and not long winded text, but since that is not possible, I hope I can achieve everything I want to in this piece.

As a mixed raced urban indigenous black women who is educated and benefited from the ALA Spectrum Scholarship program, ARL Career Enhancement program, and ARL Initiative to recruit a diverse workforce. I have read this article a few times now finding myself in agreement with some parts and saddened by more.

I agree that there needs to be more work put into the retention of diverse folks in the profession, and I think that most people in the field would agree that we are missing the mark on creating spaces that hold up indigenous and racialized librarians of colour instead of silencing they’re every move. However, these programs that are cited are not only making education more financially accessible to racialized and Indigenous students, but also supporting professional development, networking, and mentoring opportunities. Through these programs, I have created a network of mentors, and colleagues who I have connected with constantly relied on when facing institution racism in the field. I know that I can only speak for myself, but these communities have supported my work, my struggles in the academy and held space for the fight. As part of these communities I have returned support by reviewing applications of my colleagues, supporting students entering my program and working on diversity initiatives within the school I attend. I wish that this article provided more personal experiences with people who have benefited from these programs.

Yes, like everything we must constantly re-evaluate our efforts, re-think our process and re-define the ways we approach things and I believe there is space to provide this feedback to program directors. This could be an opportunity to look at the criteria for applications. I would be personally interested in hearing some suggestions. How to we effectively connect with a variety of diverse populations while maintaining commitments to sponsors and institutions supporting these initiatives? How do we create a more accessible process while supporting people to be successful in their future endeavors, much of which will operate in these institutional practices?

That being said, I cannot personally agree with the way in which whiteness is centered in the article and continues to be the framework to which we write upon. To dismantle these archaic structures to which libraries are built on we must name these institutions and practices of colonization as such. Furthermore, the way in which this article erases the Indigenous and racialized identities but provocating this idea that “we play white” in order to achieve our goals deeply saddens me. Yes, there are institutional practices that we must understand to achieve this idea of “success”, but to imbed that success, that fight and that journey into a process of whiteness is a permeation of colonial violence against the communities that we should be holding space for in the field.

The struggle is real! We need to stop addressing our issues among our communities using colonial practices and tools; we need to open up collective dialogue and start truly listening to each other to change the professional practices.