What we talk when we talk about race

16195885_1226350880763254_8050386822072332316_nHonma, T. (2005). Trippin’ over the color line: The invisibility of race in library and information studies. Interactions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, 1(2).

  1. “ The problem of the 21st century will remain the problem of the color line and the ongoing struggle for racial equality, but it will be fought out and resolved in a strikingly different America (an America one-third Black and Latino), and in a world where the vast majority of people are non-white” (p.1)
  2. Do you think about race?
    1. In what ways do you think about race?
    2. Besides this class, do you discuss race at Pratt or outside of school?
    3. Informally ( Friends, Family)?  Formally (Work, workshops)?
  3. Is race invisible in LIS?
  4. How can librarians shed neutrality and colorblindness?
  5. In your experience, how is race discuss in libraries?
  6. Will seeing the difference in racial experiences and background provide a safe space for librarians and patrons of color?
  7. How can librarians of color introduce a discussion about whiteness?
  8. How can white librarians introduce a discussion about whiteness?
  9. Do you think that issues concerning African American librarians and other librarians of color will become more visible under Carla Hayde leadership of the LOC?
  10. As students, what can we do to bring those issues to the table?
  11. As a student, what do you think about the lack of minority representation in LIS schools? At Pratt? At libraries?
  12. How could we use feminist and critical pedagogy that includes “ the voices of different racial background” (p.17) without tokenizing them?

Bell, D. (1992). “Space Traders.” Faces at the bottom of the well: The permanence of racism.

  1. “In return, the visitors wanted only one thing-and that was to take back to their homes star all of the African Americans who lived in the United States” (p.160).
  2. “Most white people were, like the welcoming delegation that morning, relieved and pleased to find the visitors from outer space unthreatening……….. On the other hand, many American blacks-whether watching from the shore on their television screens had seen the visitors as distinctly unpleasant, even menacing in appearance” (p.161).
  3. “ They are offering(Space Traders) not only a solution to our nation’s present problems but also one-surely an ultimate one- to what may be called the great American racial experiment” (p.164).
  4. “…Whatever our ideological differences or our socio-economic positions, we all know that black rights, black interests, black property, even black lives are expendable whenever their sacrifice will further and sustain white needs and preferences” (p.174).
  5. “ A major, perhaps the principal motivator for racism in this country is the deeply held belief that black people should not have anything that white people don’t have” (p.175).
  6. “….Our ‘milk and honey story’ will inspire whites to institute such litigation on the grounds that limiting the spaces traders offers to blacks people is constitutional discrimination against white” (p176).
    1. Do you see any connection between this quote and the “Our Private Idaho” video?
  1. “… To get them to recognize what we had long known: that without power, a people must use cunning and guile…………….. Certainly, must black people knew and used this art to survive in their everyday contacts with white people” (p.178)
  2. What connections can we make between this reading and race issues in LIS?

April Hathcock, “White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS,” October 2015, http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2015/lis-diversity/.

  1. How can LIS school and libraries provide safe spaces to students and librarians of color?
  2. “Thus another step in washing away the black face of white librarianship involve teaching new librarians how to effectively navigate the white system that we have” (p.12).
    1. How does this white system look like?
    2. In what ways, we as students contribute to the system of whiteness in libraries?
  3. Are the mentorships programs offered by ALA effective in recruiting librarians from underrepresented groups?
  4. Could the recruitment of library workers be a solution for the lack of minority representation in LIS?
    1. How do you imagine this could help if perhaps these library workers don’t know how to navigate the white system of librarianship?
  5. Could spaces like crit lit, LIS Microaggressions, or radlib be recreated in libraries (all types)?
    1. How could we transfer those spaces to academic, public, school libraries, and archives?
  6.   How can we create a culture of diversity in our libraries?
  7. How can we create a safe environments for our librarians and patrons of underrepresented groups?

Kimberle Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” The University of Chicago Legal Forum 140 (1989): 139-167. http://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1052&context=uclf

  1. “These problems of exclusion cannot be solved simply by including Black women within an already established analytical structure” (p.140).
    1. How can LIS be more inclusive to Black students and librarians in the field?
    2. How can we solve the problem with intersectionality in LIS?
      1. How can we make intersectionality visible?
  2. “ The goal of this activity is to facilitate the inclusion of marginalized groups for whom it can be said: ‘when they enter, we all enter’” (p. 167).
    1. How can Black librarians be recognized in their intersectionality?
    2. How can we help bringing this issue to the table?
  3. Can the acknowledgment of whiteness help bring these issues forward?
  4. “ Thus, Black women are burdened not only because they often have to take on responsibilities that are not traditionally feminine but, moreover, their assumption of these roles is sometimes interpreted within the Black community as either Black’s women failure to live up to such norms or as another manifestation of racism’s scourge upon the Black community” (p.156).
  5. Is LIS holding black librarians to a white female standard?
  6. How are black librarians viewed in popular culture?

Wise, T. J. (2005). White like me. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press.  (excerpts)

  1. How is privileged experience in libraries?
  2. How does the invisibility of privilege maintain the current exclusions in LIS?
  3. “ Not to see color….. Is not to see the consequences of color; and if color has consequences,which it surely does, yet you have resolve not to notice the thing it provokes those consequences, the odds are pretty good you’ll inadequately serve the needs of the students in question every time” (p. 16).
  4. “ To be black is to feel the need to do whatever you think is necessary to keep your children alive, because their longevity is anything but guarantee” (p. 22).

“Our Own Private Idaho”, By The Numbers [Television], Aired 10/18/14. Hinojosa, Maria, ed.   http://www.pbs.org/video/2365345800/

  1. “If you want to come to Ohio, come to ohio..In other words.. Come and don’t try to change us”.
    1. This makes me think of Academic librarianship.
    2. What comes to mind for you?
  2. What challenges do you see for librarians of color entering the field of LIS?
  3. Do you think that as a new generations of librarians enter the field, these issues will be discussed with the inclusion and sincerity it deserves?

Common themes amongst the readings and video


  • History and purpose of  whiteness within LIS
  • Community of like-minded people
  • Safe spaces (where voices and opinions can be express without fear of judgement) within libraries
  • Whiteness centrality in LIS
  • White experience
  • Privilege
  • Colorblindness
  • Neutrality
  • Social Justice
  • Diversity as buzzword
  • Inclusion

Further reading:

Hankins, R., & Juárez, M. (2016). Where are all the librarians of color?: The experiences of people of color in academia. Juice Press, New York, NY.

Sue, D. W. (2015). Race talk and the conspiracy of silence: Understanding and facilitating difficult dialogues on race. John Wiley and Son, Hoboken, NJ.

Hill Collins,P.(2016) Intersectionality. Polity Press, Cambridge UK.


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