The following is a statement from the OLA EDI Anti-Racism Special Committee. ACRL-Oregon endorses this statement.
The social events we have witnessed in the past months triggered a series of new statements, training, and resources offered by professionals of different fields and institutions to reaffirm their commitment with Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).
At this point, there is no doubt we have all heard of EDI, some of us have noticed these three letters have been misused in articles, statements, documents, policies, guidelines, terms and conditions. Unfortunately this acronym has become the new institutional jargon. The adversities BIPOC and members of minority segments in our society face on a daily basis are not a brand new event, not a trend, and not a tendency. As such, the OLA EDI Antiracism Committee believes we, as library professionals, need to refrain from using the letters EDI without understanding what each one of these letters represent in its social context.
Let’s not allow the common sense of equality destroy the fight for EQUITY. EQUITY means that we uplift and empower those who have been historically and are currently oppressed by dominant culture. Treating everyone “the same” is a weak and false statement, especially when there are still human beings from different races, classes, gender and individuals with disabilities who are not seen, heard, served, protected, and respected as they deserve. Creating library programs for “all” does not affirm or reiterate your library’s commitment to EDI. Creating programs that uplift and empower folks who have not been seen, heard, protected, and respected as they deserve, does.
Hiring different races, ethnicities, and gender-identity variances, does not show commitment to DIVERSITY, especially, if we still refuse or are hesitant to empower these individuals, if we do not invest in them, if we do not give them opportunities to thrive and advance in their careers. “Diversifying” means applying variation. We need to go above and beyond that definition in order to affirm our commitment with DIVERSITY. When we say we support diversity, we need to reject racist and xenophobic ideas on immigration policies, we need to be comfortable being part of uncomfortable conversations, we need to hear without being defensive, we need to advocate for causes that might even work against your own personal secure position (in the racist structure) to benefit those who are oppressed.
Being “included” is a matter of consideration. INCLUSION is much more than that, it is the duty to evaluate and recognize when laws, processes, terms, conditions and daily reality as a whole need to be audited, adjusted, adapted and sometimes completely changed in order to benefit people who are disadvantaged, even if that means fighting for a benefit in which you will never partake or a right you will never need to exercise.
For those of us excited about this statement, let us not forget, if you are NOT racist, it does not mean you are anti-racist. An anti-racist person will disagree with statements such as “this is not my problem”. An anti-racism advocate, recognizes privilege without feeling victimized or attacked. A person who is anti-racist, will not speak ill or participate in conversations to dismiss, demoralize and demonize other human beings based on their status in this country or the color of their skin. Anti-racist people do not passionately defend themselves stating they are not racists, on the contrary, they take time to examine their own biases and they educate themselves in order to become true allies.
Please understand we are not criticizing anybody’s attempt to be better and do better when it comes to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. We are bringing to your attention that these words need to be used in the right context so they can be as effective as they are meant to be.
We are excited to continue our work on OLA’s behalf to develop resources and tools for the Association, its members, and the Oregon Library community at large that will support EDI and anti-racism work. The committee is actively developing an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism toolkit. This toolkit is an educational resource that will help guide libraries in reflecting on their institutional practices and policies, and assist in guiding them to move forward. We look forward to strengthening our partnership with the OLA Board and with the Association, and anticipate a long-lasting relationship that will help move Oregon libraries forward with EDI and Anti-racism work.
OLA EDI Antiracism Special Committee