Bridge Building, Intersectionality and Inclusion
Collections Strategist & Scholarly Communications Librarian
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) are having a big moment in librarianship and archival practice. They are some of our favorite words right now: institutions are tossing language about EDI into their mission and value statements; short-term diversity residencies are becoming more and more common; and it is not uncommon to have multiple EDI presentations in one conference. This added discourse has the potential to allow for more conversation centering on the experiences of information professionals of color and the ways white colleagues can be better allies. In most cases, however, these conversations never move beyond surface-level awareness that prioritizes white experiences and feelings and rarely engages meaningfully with the experiences and work of librarians and archivists of color. These EDI presentations spend an inordinate amount of time making the case for racism’s continued existence and how it affects everyone, leaving little to no time to dig into restorative and justice-oriented praxis.
It is no wonder that even with all of this added discussion, the profession remains 87% white (ALA Diversity Counts, 2012) and the conversation repeats itself.
Because of the white-centered nature of EDI efforts in our profession, real, effective conversations about decentering whiteness and providing support to colleagues and communities of color largely occur in the margins. Socials, informal dinners, conversations in private spaces, are the fora in which professionals of color affirm ourselves and discuss how we work for our communities. This panel, like this conference, aims to bring those fringe conversations into the center, redirecting the focus away from education for white “allies” and toward speaking about our communities. We have a desperate need to center and affirm ourselves and our communities. Our librarianship/archival practice is not for white people. Our librarianship/archival practice is for Communities of Color--for our communities. Taking full ownership of this professional philosophy, we will address the following questions: How do we affirm ourselves and our communities of color? What is made possible in our work by centering voices and experiences of those often marginalized? Whiteness will (unfortunately) always be there. Let’s talk about what we do by us for us.