A Commitment to Anti-Racist Work at the UW Tacoma Library

By: The UW Tacoma Library Staff

Black square, white text. The UW Tacoma Library is committed to Anti-Racism. Grounded in Action. Reinforced by Accountability. #BlackLivesMatter

“I can’t breathe.”

In Tacoma, Manuel Ellis said the same words as George Floyd and Eric Garner before he died in police custody on the night of March 3, 2020.

Black Lives Matter.

We at the UW Tacoma Library stand in solidarity with our Black community and other communities of color. We condemn police brutality. We are committed to doing the anti-racist work that needs to be done — including dismantling the ways libraries, universities, and our own institution have been complicit in anti-blackness and institutionalized racism.

Sadness hangs over our city. The grief and anger is palpable. Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of Mr. Ellis. He was a part of the community we serve, someone who may have visited UW Tacoma campus and walked through the doors of our Library.

We also express gratitude to those in our community, past and present, who call for racial justice and an end to police violence. We stand by and support you and appreciate your presence on our campus, passing outside the Library buildings.

When Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards called for the firing of the four police officers involved in the death of Mr. Ellis, she said, “As the family mentioned to us this morning, why does it take a video for so many people to believe the truth about systemic racism and its violent impact on black lives, on my life?”

This question cuts to the core of our profession. As information professionals, we must acknowledge, dismantle, and change the many ways that systems of oppression are also woven through our systems of information. This work includes a deep examination of policies and practices so that we are accountable to our community.

During this moment of reckoning with America’s racist past and present, we’ve seen many institutional statements. We deeply appreciate and recognize the values expressed by President Cauce, James McShay along with university leaders for equity and UW Libraries Dean Betsy Wilson.These documents support and guide us as we grieve and reflect on our individual and collective culpability and actions.

Equity and social justice are central to our values and activities, and yet this moment calls us to renew our commitment to the anti-racist work we must do personally, in our organization, and across the institutions we serve. Saying this now is a small action, we realize. As we search, learn, and act in the future, we will use this blog to openly share and hold ourselves accountable for our anti-racist work at the UW Tacoma Library. We do not yet know what our collective efforts will yield, but we see this as the beginning of a conversation with ourselves and with you, our community, to investigate and develop plans of action.

 

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