So another black person was killed. This time, protests by diverse groups erupted and have enveloped our nation. Why it’s happening now after George Floyd’s killing, rather than last month after the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s death went viral, or in March when Breonna Taylor was shot in her home is not the point. Enough is enough. It’s time to speak out.
Our history of racism goes further back in our history than the Civil War. When slavery ended, racism lived on. The civil rights laws of the 1960s didn’t end racism. Because I’m a white man, I don’t see it every day. But our African-American brothers and sisters do see it.
A colleague of mine who directs a public library system in Virginia says,“Racism was not created by black and brown people. Systemic racism exists to support and protect white supremacy and to keep black and brown people down. Therefore it is not the sole responsibility of black and brown people to tear it down. Now is a great opportunity for white allies to step up to the plate, openly denounce systemic racism in all its forms, and be a part of the solution."
What she says is pure truth and a plea to all of us, no matter the color of our skin. I am listening. My heart goes out not only to the Black murder victims and their families, but also to every person oppressed in their daily lives with fear and threats and humiliation.
In recent years, Anne Arundel County Public Library has become an advocate for the marginalized people of our society. Our libraries serve as critical anchors in times of turmoil and tragedy. We take these roles seriously. Along with over 150 other library systems of the Urban Libraries Council, we reaffirm our commitment to “eliminating racial and social equity barriers, creating and maintaining an environment of diversity, inclusion and respect; ensuring that we are reaching and engaging disenfranchised people in the community and helping them express their voice; serving as a convener and facilitator of conversations, and being forthright on tough issues that are important to our communities.” In 2017, our Board of Trustees adopted these words which are part of an overarching statement on race and social equity. Our Trustees and Staff deeply believe and strive to live by these values.
As a library system, we remain dedicated to advancing equity among all our county’s residents through the programs, resources and materials we provide to the community. These are responsibilities we live up to 365 days a year, not just during African American History Month.
We must educate ourselves on the inherent worth of everyone. Public libraries are built on a foundation of providing equal access to information. We battle injustice through education for all. To that end, we’ve put together a list of books that delve into the issues of discrimination and systemic racism and provide tangible suggestions on how to build a more equitable society. Use this list as a guidepost to have conversations with family, friends and strangers. It is not an exhaustive list, but it represents a strong sampling of the literature available.
Racism will not be defeated solely through the actions of those affected. We must work together toward this common goal. Libraries have a role to play as trusted partners and pillars of democracy. We will not be silent.