I want to reflect on our efforts to promote DEIBJ in our schools and ask for your input and suggestions.
I need to start by acknowledging my privilege. I am a white, cisgender, married, protestant woman. I come from an upper-middle-class family. Many things I enjoy now result from generations of accumulated wealth, much off the backs of marginalized groups. My school is built on land taken from the Anishinaabe Three Fires Confederacy, specifically the Odawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi peoples.
Recently, at school, we had an alarming post on social media. On the Monday before Spring Break, a 9th-grade boy thought it okay to post a video full of hate speech. The administration spoke with him and put him on disciplinary watch. On Wednesday of that week, the student posted a similar video.
Students, faculty, and academic staff gathered for an update on Thursday. The administration (President, Provost, DEI Director, and Residental life director) stood and addressed the issues. Afterward, they invited the students to the stage if they had any questions. Students began asking questions from the floor. It was my first time seeing students stand up for themselves in a DEI environment. I was thrilled for them and excited about what this could mean for our community.
After the break, we gathered again in a town-hall meeting, where all were encouraged to speak. Many students of all races, religions, and identities spoke out. We were so proud of their bravery.
For me, this incident has brought so much to the surface. You can substitute any marginalized group for the specific racial attack here. Am I doing enough? How does the library share marginalized groups’ struggles at our schools? This op-ed piece in the Detroit Free Press moved me. In it, Alemu says:
Solidarity means finding ways to relinquish the privilege that makes your whiteness inconsequential and my Blackness fatally consequential. Here I’m inspired by the words of the Australian Aborigine activist, Lilla Watson: “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Put another way, if you want to stand in solidarity with African Americans, then let it not be only because you want to save Black lives from our burden of oppression but rather because the consequences of your daily privilege on Black lives have become a burden you can no longer bear.
I have been a DEI advocate for many years. My collections have been through DEI audits, internal and external. My displays are varied, and my influence grows each week. Students appreciate my knowledge of our resources and see the library as a safe space.
I’m feeling a need for some fresh ideas to help make a difference here. So, how can we awaken our library approach to DEIBJ? Do you have any suggestions? Programs that have worked, ways to help our communities “see” into the issues, things that help raise awareness and spark conversations? Exciting ways to make inroads with your community?
I look forward to your suggestions and comments.
Warmly (its 39° here),