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Addressing White Supremacy

Dear Friends,

I wanted to take a moment this afternoon to acknowledge the trauma that many of us are rightfully feeling. Watching yet another video of a Black person killed by unnecessary police force is horrifying, saddening, frustrating, maddening — all of our feelings are valid. 

We mourn the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and countless others who have been taken too soon. Our thoughts are with the families and survivors, but also with those in the Black community whose hearts have yet again been shredded. 

2020 has been incredibly tough. COVID-19 has dramatically changed our society, now taking more than 100,000 US American lives. But if the past week has shown us anything, it is that sharing the burden of surviving a pandemic together does not make equal citizens of us all. The CDC reported that people of color are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19, both in infections and in deaths. Even a pandemic is not lessening the fact that we have become a painfully divided and increasingly violent society, and that this violence disproportionately affects non-White communities.

I would like to adamantly state that Black Lives Matter. Saying this should not be a political statement. There should not be anything political or divisive about saying that human beings deserve to live, not just in the literal sense of not being murdered, but to be able to live their lives to their full potential and without fear.

For those of us who are White people or non-Black POC, I think it is important for us to not only recognize the trauma that is being felt by the Black community, but to commit to putting in the work that is required in being anti-racist allies. This is a matter of standing up in support of those who cannot breathe, and for those of us who are able, doing what we can to share our air. It is looking at what is blocking those airways, and using any privilege that we might hold to tear down those obstacles. This is about centering Black voices, holding ourselves and one another accountable, and doing better.

I’ve heard a statement that, however it is you decide to protest, the one important thing is to keep your foot on the gas. What generally happens (and we know how this works, because it has happened so many times in recent memory), is that there is an outcry over brutalities and injustices, and we all say, “We are going to do better. We are going to learn from this.” But as institutions (and as a White person myself), anti-racist work is so easily set aside for “more pressing” work. And that is just unacceptable. How can we say that in our offices, in our classrooms, in our lives, the disparate rates of police violence against Black and Brown people is not pressing? As healthcare workers, are the very real health disparities that are affecting POC in our country not pressing? There is nothing more pressing than addressing White Supremacy in our lives, in our institutions.

So what can we, as the library, do to ensure that we are not only fully committed to change, but that we don’t take our foot off the pedal? Although we push ourselves to be inclusive, we recognize that we sometimes miss the mark. We have biases. This shows up in every single aspect of our library, from our collections, to how we deliver services. Our library, like most libraries in the United States, were built on White Supremacist, patriarchal values. This is a legacy that we’ve inherited, but it is also one that we can intentionally reassess.

One thing I am specifically committing to is the creation of an anti-racist strategic plan for our library. I hope having this structure in place will help us to set and meet goals, and also to help the college as a whole in the process of beginning to address our roles in White Supremacy. As I move forward with working on this plan, I will be reaching out to OCOM Community members and looking specifically for input from students. This is just the first baby step in creating systemic change, but as I said: I am not taking my foot off the gas.

On a personal note, this work can be daunting, exhausting. One resource that I am currently working through is Layla Saad’s Me and White Supremacy, which is a workbook that encourages self-reflection to help White and non-Black POC in addressing and curbing our roles in (often consciously) perpetuating racism. (Note: Multnomah County Library currently has unlimited copies of the ebook and audiobook version for card holders.) Some OCOM staff members are currently setting up an anti-racist book club; if you are a student and would like some assistance in setting up a student-run group, please reach out to me — the library might be able to help in acquiring copies of books for your reading group or otherwise helping you out. Below, we’ve listed some anti-racism resources, including books, videos, podcasts and articles. Please take care of yourselves and one another, be compassionate, and do whatever self-work is necessary to ensure the liberty of all of our citizens.


Candise Branum
Director of Library Services
OCOM Library

“These conversations are always so tense, so painful. People are defensive. We want to believe we are good. To face the racisms and prejudices we carry forces us to recognize the ways in which we are imperfect. We have to be willing to accept our imperfections and we have to be willing to accept the imperfections of others. Is that possible on the scale required for change?”

Roxane Gay

RESOURCES

Document compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein in May 2020.

Resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children:

Articles to read:

Videos to watch:

Podcasts to subscribe to:

Books to read:

Films and TV series to watch:

  • 13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
  • American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
  • Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 — Available to rent
  • Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu) — Available to rent
  • Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix
  • Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent
  • I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu
  • Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to rent
  • King In The Wilderness  — HBO
  • See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol) — Netflix
  • Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent
  • The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Available to rent
  • The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
  • When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix

Organizations to follow on social media:

More anti-racism resources to check out:

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