Sunday, November 17, 2019

OLA Quarterly Racist EDI Article



[This is an unusually long blog post—sorry.]


BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) are in an abusive relationship with the colonial culture.

We are constantly told to assimilate, act 'professional,' be perfect, be natural and authentic...I could go on, won't. 

The point is, the abuser—colonial culture knows that we, BIPOC, can never really assimilate, act ‘professional’, be perfect, be natural and authentic—and we might as well add smile 24 hours a day. 

The aforementioned ‘professional’ refers to colonial culturally indoctrinated people demanding BIPOC act, read, write and be white to be ‘professional.’  All the while knowing that we cannot—because the colonial culture will not accept us as such--no matter how we behave. 

BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) are put into a double bind constantly in the US.  This happens from the time we enter elementary school at age 5 into our professional careers and beyond. 

Here is the definition of a double bind:

double bind is a dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, with one negating the other. In some circumstances (particularly families and relationships) this might be emotionally distressing. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response. The double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither resolve it nor opt out of the situation.  Source


·       (a) “Do X, or I will punish you”;
·       (b) “Do not do X, or I will punish you.”

Colonial culture demands that BIPOC be authentic and ‘speak their minds!’  All the while knowing that when BIPOC do speak their minds that they will be castigated and not be allowed to participate socially, intellectually or professionally within the system.

A perfect example of this double binding is the recent OLA Quarterly Journal’s publication of their EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) edition which had a racist article as an outro.

Even the title is offensive:  

Yes, but ... One Librarian’s Thoughts About Doing It Right
By Heather McNeil
Deschutes Public Library

The article lambasts indigenous scholar Dr. Debbie Reese for their work on critiquing colonial classic children’s literature and for daring to critique the voting on an award the author had previously participated in as a judge.  McNeil goes on to assert that Dr. Reese displays a particular ignorance to children’s book awards, how they work and BIPOC’s place in ALA (and it’s subsidiaries) and in the awards.  McNeil seems to imply the Dr. Reese cannot opine about the awards and that they should stick with awards that go to BIPOC.  Also, nowhere does McNeil address Dr. Reese as Dr. Reese.  McNeil feels they have the right to call them Debbie, instead of Dr. Reese.  I won’t even go on about that…

To imply that the committee should consider the ethnicity or diversity of the author or illustrator, and not award those who have been awarded before, reflects a lack of knowledge about the criteria for the Newbery and Caldecott. Other awards were created for the purpose of a specific ethnicity, whereas the Newbery and Caldecott consider the entire volume of that year’s publications without considering an author’s or illustrator’s previous awards or ethnicity.  Source

This is the double bind world BIPOC exist within.  We are asked to honestly critique our profession, collection development, racism, sexism and all the other types of oppression, but when we do—we are punished.  Usually this punishment is in public and is meant to shame the ‘offender.’    

That is what this article was—it was an attack on critiques by BIPOC and instruction on how to ‘do it right’ by a white woman. 

McNeil goes on to also attack Reading While White.  And also instructs other white people on how to ‘do it right.’  We need our white allies and accomplices to be able critique freely.


We need critiques of work by BIPOC and people from other oppressed groups!  We need them to be able to speak freely and to be able to critique without being told how to do so by white people.  

I am not white—my experiences and life are different than yours.   My critiques will be different than yours.  Where you may see nothing wrong at all, I may see something that can help.  White people need to listen to BIPOC to get a fuller picture of how racism works.  

Denial is the friend of racism.

These past 9 months I've made it a point not to argue with white people about what is racist and what is not.  

In fact, I try not to talk to white people about race whenever I can avoid it.  

It is physically, mentally and spiritually unhealthy for me to try to do so.

However, this article was so offensive I had to respond and did so by writing

Here is the text of my email to the list about the article.  I had previously written that it was a great issue and congratulated the authors on work well-done. 

Except for the article by Heather McNeil, in which they attack indigenous
scholar Dr. Debbie Reese and other scholars who are doing anti-racist work!


In fact, I find it deeply offensive to be spoken down to by a white woman
of privilege about how to do EDI and anti-racist work 'right.'

Or maybe that article is written for white people,,,?

I'm confused.


Your article belittled Dr. Reese and others in the field who have moved beyond begging for inclusion and also moved beyond the corpus of
traditionally white racist literature for children in the US.  This
literature does much to reproduce the racism that permeates our country.
We are in dire need of AUTHENTIC representation and AUTHENTIC critiques of the traditionally white racist literature that we swim in and were raised
within.  The best people to do these critiques are BIPOC and people from other oppressed groups.  Your article is an attack on these scholars.

Dr. Reese's groundbreaking work is a harbinger of what is to come.

BIPOC are constantly told how they should speak, behave, think and believe by white people and those days are now numbered...

This article is disturbing, offensive and racist.

It is sad because there are some other really good articles in this issue.



Max Macias


There was then a flutter of mostly supportive and some non-supportive emails from librarians from around Oregon.  

Many agreed with my critique and went into great detail about how the article was a shining example of white fragility. 

I was the only one who got a warning though.




This was my response.


I  I am currently in the process of scheduling a meeting with the state librarian to discuss my         warning, my complaint above and what I might be able to do to help OLA with their issues. 
   
   There are a few things left to talk about.
  
   Why no apology from McNeil?

There has been an apology by the OLA President, who was the guest editor of this issue. I could go on about how the editor missed opportunities, but Elaine is a great leader and I will not attack an ally who is owning their mistakes and who lives up to their leadership role fully. OLA are working with Oregon Humanities, but my fear is that while Oregon Humanities has BIPOC who work with them, Oregon Humanities is too white to help us create any real change. OH will moderate a conversation at the upcoming OLA conference—which has the theme of EDI.



     Things we can do:

·      Bring Dr. Reese to keynote an OLA conference.  We should also pay Dr. Reese for a pre-conference workshop on Children’s Literature for Oregon librarians. 

·      Bring Robin DiAngelo for a White Fragility pre-conference workshop for Oregon librarians.  I went to their all-day pre-conference workshop at NCORE this last year and it was amazingly practical and valuable.

·      Managers and directors—have your staff read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.

·      The State Library should create a list of culturally appropriate selections to help librarians who have to watch their budgets closely make culturally appropriate selections wherever their library may be. 

·      Hire Communion Counseling to help BIPOC librarians and staff recover from the trauma of racism and help white allies understand racism and it’s impact on BIPOC.

·      Hire more BIPOC librarians and staff. 

·      Make sure your organization is a learning organization.

·      Have strong data analytics so that your decisions can use information that can override biases and other weaknesses of thinking.


         LIBS-OR Archives



         McNeil, H. (2019). Yes, but … One Librarian’s Thoughts About Doing It Right. OLA Quarterly, 25(2), 48-52. https://doi.org/10.7710/1093-7374.1992 





       






14 comments:

Joan Goddard said...

Thanks, Max! (or Mr. Macias since I do not know you?) I will write to you via the list on which I saw this (and at least one previous message on this subject). And I will share it with the Racial Justice group within the U.S. section of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, among whom we have been reading and discussing the book White Fragility as well as Carol Anderson's book White Rage and various articles. You are probably in the northern part of Oregon? I go to Ashland twice a year. They are working on these matters there -- the OSF theater company and others. Joan Goddard, retired librarian and union officer

Anonymous said...

Thank you Max for opening this door! As a Librarian of color I've been walking on egg shells. I feel everything I say can be used against me. I have provide so many ideas to make my workplace more diverse and inclusive and the dismissal I receive in return is absurd. When trying to establish better programs that promote diversity, equality and inclusion I hear this is not part of my scope of work. Frustrating... Then we see a librarian such Mrs. McNeil that was chosen as librarian of the year in 2014, go ahead and write her piece of superiority. I bet if I wrote a piece bringing to life what I've been experience in this profession, the consequences for me would be much different.I write in terror now, afraid someone will recognize my retoric and I will be in trouble for that.I love my profession. I know I touch so many lives, why should I be afraid to do what it is right?

Unknown said...

Thank you Joan and Anonymous.

Why does anonymous have to write as anonymous? Because the library world is racist and punishes BIPOC librarians and workers severely whenever we are honest, authentic and passionate--being exactly what we are told to be.

My heart goes out to you anonymous.

Send me an email and let me know how I can support you my friend!


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this, Max. To your question on why Heather hasn't responded ... I don't know for sure, but I believe all the listserv messages were going to her professional email address, which she no longer has access to since retiring in September. She's also been dealing with the decline and death of a parent for the past month, and has been away with family to get all of that settled. I'm not sure if she's even aware of these conversations. :-(

Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney said...

Thank you, Max, for your work and for this valuable resource.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

File an open records request with the state to find out who complained.

Melissa said...

Hello Max,
I'm a new library worker/member of REFORMA. I've been following your case with interest--I myself am a (white passing) minority, and have been struck by the absolute whiteness of the profession. My previous profession (ESL instructor) had its own pitfalls but had a bit more diversity than what I have experienced in the Librayr world, in a large public library county cooperative. Thank you for shedding light. I completely support your message and hope your interactions with the State Librarian are fruitful. Please keep us posted.

Max Macias said...

I had a telephone call with OLA leadership and a telephone call with the State library. I will be helping as much as I can. More information to come. Thank you for your support.

Martin Blasco said...

"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Lkaneer, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice: who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with our methods of direct action"; who paternalistically feel he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until "more convenient season." -Martin Luther King, Jr., in "Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race" by Renni Eddo-Lodge (p. 101)

The words of MLK, Jr. are perfectly appropriate for the state of our profession.
The library profession is permeated with racism.

Martin Blasco said...

"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klaneer, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice: who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice: who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically feel he can set the timetable for another man's freedom: who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until "more convenient season." -Martin Luther King, Jr. in "Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race" by Renni Eddo-Lodge.

Max, thank you for taking the lead in this discussion. McNeill's article is racist, arrogant, ignorant. She lives in oblivion, in her own little capsule. It's insulting.

Sam Bloom said...

Thanks so much for writing this, Max.

Nina Lindsay said...

Max, coming late to this but want to say thank you, and how infuriating that warning. Hope the follow up calls were helpful and not more of the same.

Allie Jane Bruce said...

Max - I know I'm unreasonably late, but I also want to say thank you for this post, and for your actions. I added an editor's note to my RWW piece that links to you here.
Please keep us posted, let us know of any new developments, and how we can support you.
-Allie

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