Using Our Voice to ‘Actively Combat’ Racism

The recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police has ignited protests around the world and prompted many organizations to review their operations to identify practices that perpetuate racism and unequal treatment of minority populations. The Special Libraries Association is committed to taking a leadership role in this area, drawing on our global membership to harvest a variety of perspectives on how best to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment.

In a statement released yesterday, SLA called on the library community to use George Floyd’s death as an “inflection point” and to “seek a higher calling.” For SLA, that higher calling is to use our resources to “actively combat” racism and white supremacy and reverse the cumulative effects of unequal treatment.

“Leadership is a core value of SLA, and we will work to identify opportunities to take a leadership role in eliminating racism and instilling greater respect for centering the ideas and voices of those who have been excluded because of systematic racism in our profession,” the statement says. “SLA needs to reflect on how we as an association have perpetuated institutional racism.”

SLA has taken steps in recent years to promote discussion of diversity and inclusion. An SLA community, Diversity Inclusion Community Equity, offers many resources to promote equity within the association and profession. A three-part webinar series, What Would You Do: Strategies for Dealing with Implicit Bias in the Workplace,” began on June 2 and will continue through June 16. Conference sessions have addressed topics such as “Diversity in the Workplace: It’s Broader Than You Think,” and Safiya Noble, a professor at UCLA and the author of a best-selling book on racist and sexist algorithmic bias in commercial search engines, delivered the closing keynote presentation at SLA’s 2019 Annual Conference to discuss her work.

“Going forward, we will use our voice not to echo, but to lead,” SLA’s statement asserts. “… We condemn racism and hate unequivocally, we assert that Black lives matter, and we resolve to use our resources to actively combat racism and white supremacy in the future and to work to reverse the effects of years of inequity.”

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