“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.” — Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want to Talk About Race.
Black lives matter. Too long have we allowed acts of racism and deeply ingrained, institutionalized forces of white supremacy to devalue, endanger, and grievously harm Black people and members of other minoritized and marginalized groups. State-sanctioned violence and racial terror exist alongside slower and more deep-seated forces of inequality, anti-Blackness, colonization, militarization, class warfare, and oppression.
As members of the JMU Libraries Dean’s Council and Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we acknowledge these forces to be both national and local, shaping the daily lived experiences of our students, faculty, staff, and community members. As a blended library and educational technology organization operating within a PWI, the JMU Libraries both participates in and is damaged by the whiteness and privilege of our institutions and fields. Supporting the James Madison University community through a global pandemic has helped us see imbalances, biases, and fault lines of inequality more clearly.
We pledge self-examination and concrete action. Libraries and educational technology organizations hold power, and can share or even cede it. As we strive to create welcoming spaces and services for all members of our community, we assert the fundamental non-neutrality of libraries and the necessity of taking visible and real action against the forces of racism and oppression that affect BIPOC students, faculty, staff, and community members.
Specifically, and in order to “fight racism wherever [we] find it, including in [ourselves],” we commit to:
- Listen to BIPOC and student voices, recognizing that they have long spoken on these issues and have too often gone unheard.
- Educate ourselves and ask questions of all the work we do. (“To what end? To whose benefit? Whose comfort is centered? Who has most agency and voice? Who is silenced, ignored, or harmed? Who is elevated, honored, and made to feel safe? Who can experience and express joy?”)
- Set public and increasingly measurable goals related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism, so that we may be held accountable.
- Continue to examine, revise, and augment our collections, services, policies, spending patterns, and commitments, in order to institutionalize better practices and create offerings with enduring impact.
- Learn from, and do better by, our own colleagues.
We are a predominantly white organization and it is likely that we will make mistakes as we try to live up to this pledge. When that happens, we will do the work to learn and rectify. We will apologize, examine our actions and embedded power structures, attempt to mitigate any harm caused by our actions, and we will do better.
Dr. Bethany Nowviskie
Dean of Libraries, Professor of English, & Senior Academic Technology Officer, JMU
Dr. Brian Flota
Associate Professor, Humanities Librarian, Library Faculty Assembly Representative, JMU Libraries
Director of Communications and Outreach, Associate Professor, JMU Libraries
Dr. Aaron Noland
Assistant Dean of Libraries, Assistant Professor, JMU
Music Library Assistant, Outgoing Staff Advisory Council Representative, JMU Libraries
Digital Preservation Librarian, Assistant Professor, Libraries Leadership Group Representative, JMU Libraries
Interim Associate Dean of Libraries, Professor, JMU
Director of Facilities Operations, JMU Libraries
Interim Associate Dean of Libraries, Associate Professor, JMU
Libraries Administrative Assistant, JMU
Director of Technology, JMU Libraries
Director of Digital Projects, Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Member, JMU Libraries
Educational Technology Instructor, Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Member, JMU Libraries
JMU Music Library Services Manager, Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Member
Reserves Coordinator & Interlibrary Loan Borrowing, Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Member, JMU Libraries
Communication & Media Studies Librarian, Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Vice Chair, JMU Libraries
Science & Math Librarian, Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chair, JMU Libraries
Note: This post is being shared from the JMU Libraries web page where it first appeared on 9 June 2020. Internal Libraries discussions, programming, and action related to dismantling white supremacy is ongoing. I’m replicating this on my own blog as a self-reminder that these are personal, as well as organizational commitments.