Teen Services Competencies 7 – Cultural Competency and Responsiveness

YALSA Secretary Josie Watanabe of the Seattle Public Library is this month’s guest blogger. 

YALSA Board Training: Undoing Structural Racism by Schools’ Out Washington

I wanted to share what the YALSA Board was up to over Midwinter!  If you keep up with ALA, you will know that this Midwinter meeting was filled with new ideas from SCOE and frank conversations about the ALA budget. All of this is really centered on the idea that libraries, library staff and our communities are asking for different support and pathways to do our work in new ways. YALSA has heard the call and over the last few years has created a strong EDI charge.

What is EDI you ask??? EDI is a huge topic that spans over mega conversations about equity, diversity and inclusion. The terminology is so broad it can mean many things to many people. Over the last few years YALSA has focused on diversity, and when the time came to write our new strategic plan, we had an ambitious charge: to center our work on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion by infusing it into every and all aspects of our new strategic plan. This was innovative and important work for YALSA and we knew it would entail a lot of learning and growing on our part.

To start with, YALSA Board wanted to have a firm grounding and understanding of institutional racism. Most of you have heard about the personal work we all need to undertake to undo racism—this encompasses understanding implicit bias, blind spots, anti-blackness, microaggressions, etc…. However the legacy and future power of racism exists at the institutional level, this includes the various policies and procedures that organizations create and enforce; and at the structural level where several organizations—schools, out-of-school learning organizations and other institutions work together to create systems where white people unfairly benefit because of the color of their skin.

This happens in housing, education, the criminal justice system, health, etc.  YALSA Board understands, as an institution, the power and impact we have on the library profession, staff and ultimately youth. Boards often control the budget and direct the work of Executive Director, they create policies and procedures that support the organization and spend much of the time making strategic decisions that will either move the work of the organization towards or away from their mission or EDI plan.  So, yeah—that’s a lot of responsibility—but it’s an amazing way to make change and most importantly institutional change!

This is exactly what we the YALSA Board determined was most important—we wanted to take our already powerful EDI plan and find new ways to deconstruct the policies, procedures and systems that keep our board, book lists, medals, workgroups, etc… homogeneous,  but we also wanted to actively create policies and procedures that would recruit diverse library staff to YALSA and remove barriers of participation.  One step in this direction included YALSA board spending some of our time at Midwinter with School’s Out Washington,  a leading out-of-school time organization that supports youth providers in positive youth development approaches, such as, Youth Program Quality Assessment, SEL (social emotional learning) and advancing racial equity.  The workshop they led was called Undoing Structural Racism and here are some of the big topics we discussed at the training:

  • Basic forms of racialization: internalized, interpersonal, institutional and structural
  • The history of structural racism through a short video clip: A Brief History of White Privilege, Racism and Oppression in America
  • The policies and practices that exemplify structural racism: redlining, public education system funded by property taxes, subprime lending, hiring practices and “stop and frisk” laws.
  • We often blame youth or families when we should be blaming systems.
  • Ongoing impact of structural racism: How structural racism plays out in health, wealth, schools and policing.
  • Racial Equity: A path forward and things to consider:
    • We live in a society where race matters.
    • We’re all part of the picture. None of us asked for this. The structure of race and racism were set up in the past. But still, all of us are responsible for the present and future.
    • As we sit here talking about race and racism, racism is playing out. We need to have these conversations, but we also need to take action on what we can influence to end racism.
  • How we can talk about race.
  • The Continuum on Becoming and Anti-Racist, Multi-Cultural Organization: Take a look at the link and see where your organization is on the continuum.

This was just a start and as a board—we committed to using a part of our monthly board chats to continue our learning and understanding of institutional racism by going through their materials. Follow along with the YALSA Board by reading and discussing these resources with your friends and workmates. Also consider the powerful work you can do by joining the YALSA Board. Check out our Board Fellow position to learn more about board service.

For Further Reading:

  • Why are all of the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations about Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • So You Want to Talk About Race? by ljeoma Oluo
  • Fakequity Blog

For Self-Work:

  • Me and White Supremacy-The Workbook by Layla F. Saad

For Working with Youth:

  • 1000 Black Girls Books Resource Guide by Marley Dias
  • Teaching Tolerance

For Work with your Colleagues:

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Thanks, Josie, for this excellent recap of our Board training and what was accomplished at last month’s Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia!

Todd Krueger, YALSA President 2019-2020 | Twitter: @toddbcpl

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