“We can’t let it stop.”
Those words were spoken this week in an open IU Libraries staff forum. We came together in anger and sadness. We did not leave healed. As I listened to my colleagues, I heard that we are in no way ready to close this wound. It has been freshly opened by another murder of an unarmed person of color, and we add our voices to rising shouts for justice and to the loud condemnation of violence and racism toward all people of color, and to all of those in the IU community who say the time for change is now.
“It’s up to us.”
Another echo from our time together is that we realize no one else will do the hard work for us. We refuse to allow this to be a news cycle moment. We will not waste the moment presented only to us and only now. Previous generations have had their work to do and we must not fail in our own. George Floyd’s death is the most recent in a long line of acts of violence against Black people in the United States. Many of us have naively believed far too many times that “something will change now.” That something must be us.
“The conversation needs to keep going.”
Libraries are the keeper of words in all the ways they are used. We do not, and will not, intentionally edit the history we preserve. We will examine our own bias and prejudice. We will examine our collections and archives. We will not view this work as a starting line or a finish line for addressing racial inequality because we acknowledge we have been working and we will work harder. We will not pretend to have the answers. We will ask questions. We won’t give up.
We are above all things educators. The work we do on this campus shapes the people who shape our future.
- We must partner with our community to share the eyewitness accounts, the first-person writings, and the decades of research on racism in our collections. We commit to making these collections more visible and accessible.
- We must preserve today’s stories from every angle and perspective. We are living through history today and it is our job to preserve it for the next generation of scholars. What will they learn from our actions?
- IU Libraries proposes an all-campus effort to host Anti-Racist Reading List book clubs. We will buy any and all licenses needed to ensure every faculty and staff member on the Bloomington campus can participate. We will organize discussion forums and seek wise and knowledgeable scholars to lead them.
- We will recommit to our library colleagues of color across the nation and at IU Libraries specifically. We will build better ladders to our own leadership. We will learn what it means to de-center whiteness and then practice together.
This fall we will welcome thousands of first-year students. They will attend class breathing through a mask and they have now spent their summer grappling with a burning world. Their unique situation offers an educational opportunity we must not miss.