What if all the staff in my organization are white?
However you identify racially, I’d like to share some things to consider as you plan a Dedicated to the Dream cohort at your library or organization or use other resources from our website.
Before we go any further, I want to be open about the identity I am writing from. I am a white, cis woman.
In our unjust society, white people have racial privilege and power and because of this, there is a significant opportunity to leverage that power to elevate the voices and experiences of folks of color. If you aren’t familiar with the concepts of ally and accomplice, check out more here.
Like other EDI toolkits, I’m going to pose questions to help you determine a responsible way forward for your library or organization right now.
Now I think we’re ready to examine two key questions if all the staff in your organization are white.
Should a team consisting of all white staff members lead race and culture education programs?
My answer is: it depends. Let’s explore this together.
Have any of the white staff who plan to run any portion of this program previously participated in trainings, workshops or facilitated discussions around race in this country through an anti-racism lens? And does the team plan to continue growing their anti-racism understanding and skills through ongoing learning and conversation?
Additionally, reading titles like these fantastic resources have been and are significant to my education. I personally found Stamped: A Remix: Racism, Anti-Racism and You by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds an extremely helpful guide to US history with a focus on race. And I will keep on learning and having brave conversations because this is a lifelong pursuit.
The other key question is this:
If white staff do feel they have the education and humility to lead responsibly, how should the team best lead?
The short answer is: in partnership.
What is the racial makeup of the town or city in which the library is situated?
If those in your library or organization are all white and the community you serve is anything but “all white,” pause. Do not pass go. It is still possible to do racial equity work and education, but it is not white staff’s place to be the primary or only racial identity and experience to model and lead discussions and offer curriculum around culture and race in a group setting, if you have a racially diverse community. Your reality and experiences are of course important, and you can be a valuable co-leader as well as a resource in a white affinity space (we recommend racial affinity groups).
We recommend that white staff seek out and invite prominent community members of color to co-plan and co-lead the program. If this doesn’t seem feasible because there are no relationships between the library and companies, organizations, places of worship or businesses operated by folks of color, then there is your first goal! Make relationships!
In the meantime, please use our printable resources to share with patrons and explore the books, videos and educational links (and here’s another goodie) we have found helpful in our own anti-racism journeys! And remember, just because you may not be ready yet to launch the entirety of the program we’ve put together does not mean it should never be done.
May we be humble, brave and loving,
Jessica Iverson co-creator/leader of DttD’s first cohort