Thursday, February 25, 2016

ALA task force seeks your input on economic implications of participating at ALA functions

Subject: ALA Task Force Seeks Your Input on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion


The ALA Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion was created in the spring of 2014 by then ALA President, Barbara Stripling.  The Task Force is currently in the information-gathering phase.  To aid with information gathering, it has launched a series of short surveys to be conducted at times to coincide with the ALA Midwinter Meetings and Annual Conferences through 2016.  These surveys are designed to help understand the culture of the association, the profession, and our communities with respect to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

We recognize that incidents of racial bias and injustice continue to occur across the country on a regular basis.  This third survey, however, focuses on the economic implications of participating in ALA functions.

The survey can be accessed at Responses will be collected through March 18, 2015. ALA members and non-members are encouraged to participate.

Please take a few minutes to answer the survey, which should take no more than 7 minutes to complete. “Embracing and celebrating diversity, and creating a more inclusive profession have been long-standing goals of the American Library Association.  With your help, we hope to ensure these values are upheld,” said Task Force co-chairs Trevor A. Dawes and Martin L. Garnar.

The ALA Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion’s charge is to develop a plan and strategic actions to build more equity, diversity, and inclusion among our members, the field of librarianship, and our communities.  The most important Task Force outcome is the public and honest conversation generated by its plan and recommended actions.  The final Task Force report will include recommendations for ensuring that a continuing focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion is embedded throughout the ALA organization.

Questions about the survey can be sent to the Task Force at

Should technical issues arise, please contact the ALA Office for Research and Statistics at or call 1 (800) 545-2433. ext. 4273.

Max Macias ALA TFEDI member

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Colonialism and Whiteness: A Legacy of Brutality

Colonialism and Whiteness

This is the first post in a series of blog posts that seeks to understand the development of Whiteness in the Americas from colonialism to today.  These blog posts are short necessarily short and are not meant to be exhaustive, but to give the reader an idea of where Whiteness comes from and how it appears in our culture. The need for these posts came out of the backlash against Whiteness History Month at Portland Community College this April, 2016. 

Casta Painting
A Casta (Spanish: [ˈkasta], Portuguese: [ˈkastɐ, ˈkaʃtɐ]) was a hierarchical system of race classification created by Spanish elites (españoles) in Hispanic America during the Spanish colonial period. The sistema de castas or the sociedad de castas was used in 17th and 18th centuries in Spanish America and Spanish Philippines to describe as a whole and socially rank the mixed-race people who were born during the post-Conquest period. These unions produced in the process known as mestizaje. A parallel system of categorization based on the degree of acculturation to Hispanic culture, which distinguished between gente de razón (Hispanics) and gente sin razón (non-acculturated natives), concurrently existed and supported the idea of casta.  Source: 


Whiteness has been with us since the beginning of European colonialism.  When Europeans conquered what was to become the Americas, they also established a racial caste system based on skin color.   The darker one was, the lower they were on the social scale.  Whiteness is a concept that describes the cultural, lingual, institutional beliefs, practices and behavior that maintains access to power and reinforces power for White people and people of lighter skin tones.  This colonial system was created for and by Europeans for the benefit of Europeans.  Everything was in relation to the European--this is a hallmark of the concept of Whiteness--that everything is judged in relation to Whiteness and not something else.  

Españoles (Spanish) [White people]
Peninsulares (Spaniards) [White people]
Criollos (Spanish Americans) [White people]
Indios (Amerindians)
Mestizos (Amerindian and Spanish mix)
Castizos (Spanish with some Amerindian mix)
Cholos (Amerindian with some Spanish mix)
Pardos (Spanish, African, and Amerindian Mix)
Mulattos (African and Spanish mix)
Zambos (Amerindian and African mix)
Negros (Africans)

This is, in a nutshell, how the European imposed hierarchy in the Americas looked.

This system was brutally enforced.  There were strict rules about who could do what with whom....This system was directly related to slavery and servitude.  The people higher up (Whiter) the hierarchy were granted more privileges and rights than those in the lower section.  Consequently, the amount of distance one could put between oneself and the lower states of the hierarchy, the better chance one had of making a living, or even succeeding in the European (White) dominated world of the Americas (Whiteness).   

Another casta painting


     Casta paintings
The casta series represent different racial mixtures that derived from the offspring of unions between Spaniards and Indians–mestizos, Spaniards and Blacks–mulattos, and Blacks and Indians–zambos. Subsequent intermixtures produced a mesmerizing racial taxonomy that included labels such as “no te entiendo,” (“I don’t understand who you are”), an offspring of so many racial mixtures that made ancestry difficult to determine, or “salta atrás” (“a jump backward”) which could denote African ancestry. Source:

 These paintings show us the importance of Whiteness to the Spanish from the very beginning of their conquest of the Americas.  The resultant mixture with indigenous, African and Asian people led to a complex hierarchy of racial superiority that was adhered to and, in many ways, is still upheld today.  These notions permeate our society, but in a different guise.

High Civilization (NOT White)
 Indigenous People and Whiteness

In an idealized Mexico where people of African, European and indigenous heritage were intermingling in seeming harmony, the paintings were a reminder to Spaniards that there was still a strong hierarchy of racial purity — with Europeans on top. Source:
On the social scale indigenous people are close to last.  It was a survival strategy to distance oneself from anything that is indigenous.  Choices like adopting the god of the Europeans, to using their script instead of the indigenous forms of writing,  and becoming as Guero (White) in dress, speech and color if possible.

They had been here thousands of years and had established societies, cultures and hierarchies.

Once the casta system was imposed by invading Europeans they concept of Whiteness became increasingly important.  The abandonment of their culture, their languages and their identity is what was required, at baseline, if one wanted to survive or even advance in the new hierarchy that had been established by bloodthirsty conquerors. 

Up until recently, skin color has been a defining factor in Latino life.

Are you:

Guero?  (White, or Whiter Than)

Maron?  (Brown)

Negro?  (Black)

The answer could be a determining factor in your life....

Spanish burning indigenous books/knowledge/culture


          Cultural Genocide

The racial hierarchy in combination with the destruction of the indigenous cultures by book burning, destroying cultural monuments and using them to build churches (Whiteness), and the enslavement of the indigenous people did much to reinforce the casta system.  Our (Latinos) indigenousness had been written out of the history books, it had been derided and our people discriminated against and persecuted (according to their skin color).  Whiteness can be uncovered when one thinks about how the descendants of European immigrants want to persecute indigenous people from Mexico and other parts of central America for wanting to migrate on their own continent.  Even Latinos are hesitant to use this argument against immigration restrictions on Latinos.  I can only imagine that the bias against Indios still permeates Latino culture and prevents this strong argument from being presented. 

Contemporary Latinos and Whiteness 

As always, this is not a sweeping generalization, but a description of a large part of Latino society in the US that I have been witness to my entire life.

Latinos in large part lost their indigeneity by distancing themselves from their indigenous heritage and appropriating the European religion and culture as much as possible.   It was advantageous to do so, economically, socially and health-wise, it was advantageous to be as European (White) as possible.  This is where we see Whiteness beginning in the Americas.

Since the 1990's there has been a resurgence of interest in indigenous culture by Latinos who want to claim that part of their heritage.  It had never really been a option before--now we see Aztec dancers, and other parts of our indigenous heritage celebrated and exalted by some Latinos.

An example of contemporary Whiteness 

When I pick up a book entitled, American Ethnic Folklore and I open it up and it is really about Indigenous mythology.  I then realize that this is whiteness.  The fact that this book has been written for White people by White people without regard to any other readership uncovers Whiteness in this particular context and moment.  This is Whiteness.  These kinds of subject categories still permeate education and information in general.

We must seek to uncover Whiteness where it is, when it appears.  Whiteness is not a stable, abstract concept.  Whiteness changes according to setting, in shifts it's mode of providing access and maintaining power for White people.   We should and help our allies see and explicate Whiteness when it appears in our institutional and social contexts.

Whiteness displayed before the Irish were considered White

One other thing about Whiteness is that it can be adhered to by non-white people.  Many people of color and those who purport to want to help People of Color adhere to the system of Whiteness that the educational system upholds, supports and requires of POC who want to succeed.  I say that this is why we have made little to no progress in equity, diversity and inclusion in our school systems and our society.  

The brutalities that were used to enforce the racial hierarchies of yesterday are still with us today.They used to come in the form of lynchings--back in the days of Jim Crow.... Now they come in the forms of Police shootings of unarmed African Americans and Latinos in far greater numbers than Whites.  They come in vigilante shootings of unarmed African Americans, for example--the shooting of Trayvon Martin.  

Colonialism is still in full effect....

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