uprooting racism (#1): front matter

uprooting_racism_coversmWelcome to the Uprooting Racism read-along! For the next twelve weeks I’ll be slow-reading and reflecting on Paul Kivel’s revised and expanded Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice (New Society Publishers, 2011).

Anti-racism work is an area of my life that I need to / want to more actively cultivate. Like many Euro-American white folks I have lived in social circles of majority-whiteness. My SES (socioeconomic status) is, to a degree, a product of my whiteness. And yet, of course, I have spent less time in my life thinking about my racialized community — a community of relative privilege — than I have about my sexualized, gendered, or even class-sorted or educated self. So this slow-read project is an opportunity to think about race in my daily life, particularly how race operates on a structural level, than I have before.

This week, I read the acknowledgement, prefaces (original and 3rd edition), introduction as a way of easing into this reflection. Below are my reading notes. I welcome those of you reading along to speak up in comments, and even those who aren’t reading along are welcome to join the conversation if my notes or comments spark further thought.


I often read acknowledgements first when approaching a nonfiction book. For me, it’s a way of situating the author as part of their scholarly and personal communities of support: Who offered early comment? Who provided childcare? Do they thank the librarians? From whom did they receive funding? Did their barista make good coffee? Were their cats helpful. You can learn a lot about a person by taking note of who they acknowledge.

Paul Kivel begins by acknowledging “the creative spirit that is the source of life,” “the earth that nurtures and sustains,” and “the Native Peoples whose land I am on” (xiii). Already we are being encouraged to think in deep structures and systems of connection.

Preface Continue reading

food for thought: being safe(r) spaces

This week I have a handful of links related to making our workplaces for comfortable and safe for everyone.

First up, if you have it in your budget, please consider donating to support two librarians — on Canadian, one in the U.S. — who are being sued for defamation after speaking up about being sexually harassed by a prominent male colleague. As Barbara Fister @ Library Babel Fish explains:

A Canadian librarian, along with one who lives in the American Midwest, are being sued in Canada for $1.25 million by an American librarian named Joe Murphy, who I have never met but who is fairly well known as a conference speaker. He’s also well known because he’s one of those conference speakers who women warn one another about. This kind of thing surprises some people who can’t imagine that a female-dominated profession like mine has a harassment problem, but it does, and a lot of us got an education about how widespread it is when the American Library Association passed a code of conduct, which I support whole-heartedly. Lisa Rabey and nina de jesus are women who write publicly and speak their minds fearlessly. They put in writing (in a Tweet and in a blog post) stuff I’ve been hearing for quite some time. Now they are facing a massive lawsuit which they are handling bravely. I can’t imagine how stressful this is for them. What I can imagine all too well is that the chilling effect of this lawsuit. It’s never easy to confront men who harass women. It’s never easy to share such information, except perhaps in whispers. But we need to stand up for the right to do so without fear of being sued for a ridiculous amount of money.

I don’t know Joe Murphy and all I knew about him was his reputation, which the lawsuit claims has been damaged by Rabey and de jesus, even though that damage actually happened long before they put anything in writing. (And if you think we shouldn’t talk about this because he’s innocent until proven guilty, remember this is not a criminal case and he is not a defendant, as de jesus has so lucidly explained.) It could be that he has been unfairly maligned for the past few years. But in a profession that’s all about the value of sharing information and protecting access to multiple perspectives, this isn’t how you defend your reputation. You engage. You discuss. You listen. You try to figure stuff out. You don’t attempt to silence people with punitive legal actions. If you do, you are doing it wrong.

Related to this case (hashtag #teamharpy), Andrew Day shared the Radical Librarians Collective safe space policy, which I have added to my growing collection of code of conduct / comment policy / safe space policy / civility policy frameworks:

The basic tenet is respect – respect each other (our backgrounds, identities, ideas and bodies) – and respect the space we’ve created together. Here it goes…

  • Everyone has an equal right to be heard and an equal responsibility to listen (people who are used to talking may feel the benefit of listening more, and vice versa).
  • Respect and look after the building as a physical space and a resource for all.
  • However strongly you feel about a particular topic, resist abusive discussions.
  • Any behaviour – physical or verbal – that demeans, marginalises or dominates others, or perpetuates hierarchies, is not welcome.
  • Identify your own privileges – the things that sometimes give you an easier ride than others – and actively challenge them.
  • Be aware of the range of different identities (gender, race, class) that people may identify with, and avoid making generalisations, or assumptions about people.
  • Be aware that anyone in the space could be a survivor of a particular form of oppression, for example, violence or racism.
  • If someone is feeling uncomfortable, do not hesitate to raise this.
  • It is everyone’s responsibility to challenge prejudice & oppression, and if we ignore it we are complicit in it.

This list is not exhaustive and it is up to all of us to help create a space where everyone feels safe and included.

And two pieces on the importance of being mindful about human gender and sexual diversity at work:

Jessica Lachenal @ The Bold Italic on her experience of working while trans* in the tech industry:

I wish I’d stood up for myself and my community against these microaggressions that are so pervasive in tech. They exist everywhere, like getting thrown on a mailing list where the engineering lead opens every email with “gents,” even though he knows I identify as a woman, or being greeted with downturned eyes and quickly hushed conversations when I pass. Or overhearing people casually use the word “tranny” and then observing their resistance when someone else explains to them why that’s inappropriate. There was also the time an engineer was telling some not-so-female-friendly jokes, and he followed up his remarks with a “What? There’s no women here … oh, sorry, Jessica.”

And Stonewall (UK) @ The Biscuit on workplace biphobia:

While lesbians, gay and bisexual people share some experiences there are also tensions, sometimes because gay men and lesbians are outright hostile towards bisexual people. While some gay people are quick to highlight and challenge homophobia they apply a different set of standards to biphobia, with comments like “You’re not bi, you’re just too scared to say you’re gay” and “Bisexuals are just greedy” going unchallenged – or actually being said – by them. Unsurprisingly this attitude deters bisexual people from accessing their own network, leaving them isolated. YouGov polling for Stonewall found that 60 per cent of bi men and 37 per cent of bi women were not out to any of their colleagues, compared to 15 per cent of gay men and six per cent of lesbians. Given that people perform better when they can be themselves, the personal impact on bisexual people is enormous, not to mention on the toll it takes on their productivity, as people focus on avoiding being identified as bisexual rather than straight or gay.

ICYMI, I also wanted to give a shout-out for one of my other current projects, Queer!NEA — the official blog of New England Archivists’ LGBTQ Issues Roundtable. You can also find us on Twitter @queernea. We’re currently providing a steady stream (2 posts per day) of LGBTQ-related links, with a particular focus on New England and/or archives and history; in the works are longer-format Q&A with archivists and scholars working in queer history and with queer collections. You’re welcome to follow us passively or get involved if it sounds like your cup of tea.

Relatedly, I’d love to have Amiable volunteers to curate a weekly links list! If you would be willing to spend a week collecting links from your RSS feeds related to marginalization and inclusion in the workplace, I’d love to bring a little more diversity to this series. Drop me a line at amiablearchivists@gmail.com.

uprooting racism (#0.5): some background on the author

I had planned to begin our read-along this week, but my public library’s inter-library loan system failed to deliver the book in time! So I am beginning this project with some background information on the author, Paul Kivel. Kivel is a professional writer and educator based in Oakland, California, who has been working in violence prevention for nearly three decades. Within this broad field, Kivel has chosen to focus on men and violence, racial injustice, and working with youth. My own previous experience with his work was in reading the 20th anniversary edition of Helping Teens Stop Violence, Build Community, and Stand for Justice (Hunter House, 2011), co-authored with Alan Creighton. Reading Helping Teens, I was impressed by his grasp of intersectional oppression as well as ageism towards youth — something few Americans are willing to acknowledge, let alone work to combat.

Below is a YouTube video of a recent session Kivel led this summer in the U.K. for the organization Let Freedom Ring! that I encourage the interested to watch / listen to in the next week; it provides a good hour-long sense of where Kivel is coming from and what is approach to social justice action is.

food for thought: civility and harassment continued

Just a few pieces this week, continuing to look at the online dynamics of civility and harassment.

First up, Rosie @ Make Me a Sammich reminds us all that men who harass others online are men not “trolls” or “boys” whose actions can or should be explained away by the logic of the less-culpable:

By calling these people “trolls,” we are basically letting them off the hook. It’s a lot like the “boys will be boys” mentality that helps to keep rape culture thriving, but it’s also different, because boys are expected to be human. By calling these people “trolls,” we relegate them to non-human status, and we make it clear that we don’t expect them to live up to the same behavioral standards as human beings.

So, who are these assholes? Well, the subset of the population we refer to as “trolls” is mostly (almost exclusively, in my personal experience) made up of men who—for reasons that range from angry entitlement to I-don’t-know-what—make it their business to perpetrate harassment and abuse on targets who are mostly not men.

Fannie @ Fannie’s Room reflects on the power and limits of civility to allow for true learning in online spaces:

I think people can be genuinely jerky about call-outs, but oftentimes, there is no way to gently educate, as deBoer suggests, other people (especially those with various privileges) about something problematic they said or did without that person perceiving it as an attack on themselves.  When I was a resident lesbian, feminist guest blogger at the conservative-leaning Family Scholars Blog, we seemed to have these conversations on practically a weekly basis for at least a year!

No matter how tepidly we tip-toed around the dreaded b-word (bigot, that is), no matter how many assurances I and other pro-LGBT folks gave that we believed equality opponents could still be generally kind people, if we admitted that we thought their opposition to equality was “anti-gay,” they perceived that label to be an abhorrent attack meant to silence them. The term bigot and anti-gay were, to many of them, hostile. Abusive. Harassment.

(Full disclosure: I, too, was a guest blogger along with Fannie at the Family Scholars Blog. An invaluable experience in engaging with those who disagreed with most of my life choices.)

And if you haven’t read Mark Oppenheimer @ BuzzFeed on the subject of misogyny in the atheist / skeptic community, you should. Apart from the fact that these issues are obviously of primary importance to those within the atheist / skeptic community, the dynamics and issues at work there are at work in so, so many other sectors of our culture.

If all one did was read the blogs, this would seem to be a very political fight, about feminism, libertarianism, and other isms. But many grassroots activists, mainly men, simply regret the loss of a tiny, bygone community of eccentrics. This disappearing world was heavily male, and perhaps quite sexist, but it was also a safe space for science geeks, political dissidents, and other kinds of misfits. It’s understandable that some would feel nostalgia for that romanticized world; for 50 years, freethought was where one could say things forbidden elsewhere. These are the people, after all, who stand up and tell evangelical Christians that there is no god. Many of their fellow Americans would say that’s far worse than saying “cunt.” So for open atheists, free speech is not trivial. And because they are usually on the receiving end of witch hunts and oppression, they are understandably wary of purging their own members.

But according to PZ Myers, atheists and skeptics may be uniquely unable to recognize their own flaws. “You’ll find the atheists who say, ‘I’m rational, therefore I’m better than everybody else,’” Myers said. “They take it for granted that all of their beliefs and positions are founded on rational thinking.”

And finally, y’all should march on over to Cracked and read “5 Things I Learned as the Internet’s Most Hated Person” by game developer Zoe Quinn:

Long story short, the Internet spent the last month spreading my personal information around, sending me threats, hacking anyone suspected of being friends with me, calling my dad and telling him I’m a whore, sending nude photos of me to colleagues, and basically giving me the “burn the witch” treatment.

So-called “#GamerGate” is, of course, specific to the gaming industry and subculture; but like with the atheist / skeptic community issues described by Oppenheimer, we would be foolish to imagine that any subculture or profession is immune to this type of behavior — as foolish as assuming that we can fully free ourselves of racist attitudes in a society that marinates us in such notions from the cradle.

food for thought: is civility a social good?

Between the ongoing discussion of gamer culture and misogyny, and then academic turmoil over the limits of speech protections, it’s been a busy week for questions of “civil” society and who benefits from (certain) codes of conduct that end up reinforcing an unequal status quo.

Free speech, ‘civility,’ and how universities are getting them mixed up” by Michael Hiltzik @ The L.A. Times:

A major problem with using words like “respect” and “civility” to mark the boundaries of free speech protections is that they don’t have fixed definitions. One person can be deeply affronted (or claim to be) by language that another finds perfectly innocuous. And it’s one thing to set standards for expression in private forums — comment pages on websites, for example — and quite another to impose them as conditions for legal protection of free speech.

Men are More Harassed On The Net Than Women. So Cathy Young Tells Us.” @ Echidne of the Snakes:

Those would be counted as tweets harassing the recipient in the Demos study.  And if I tweeted to someone “I just got called an old bull dyke.  Ever happen to you?”  that, too, would be counted as me harassing the recipient.

On the other hand, a tweet that is explicitly threatening and horrible would slip the study as long as it didn’t use any of the dirty words.

Thus, strictly speaking the Demos study is about the number of tweets celebrities, politicians, journalists and musicians receive which contain dirty words.  There’s no doubt that many/some of those are harassing tweets.  But the relationship is not one-to-one.  “Fucking brilliant!”  is not a harassing tweet, yet there are subcultures on the net which would use language of that sort.  Figuring out that relationship between tweets containing naughty words and harassing tweets would be a good project for someone.

Civility, Outrage.” by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig:

I think the wise thing to do is to not treat all arguments, arguers, or subjects as identical. The ‘civility’ code seems to suggest that there’s one style that’s appropriate to all frames, all people, all subjects, all stakes — and I’ve tried to show why I think that’s inadequate and often harmful. A better approach is to distinguish between cruelty and love; it’s one thing to want to defend poor kids from stigmatization, for example, because you love them; it’s another to bash someone who happened to argue for the stigmatization of poor kids because you already disliked them, and see this as a mere opportunity to gain some ground. Obviously it’s a little challenging to judge motives like this, but usually significant social or political stakes should tip you off as to whether a very fierce line is worth pursuing. In this realm I also include ethics having to do with relative power and status; don’t break, as it were, a bruised reed. Don’t punch down.

via Frederick deBoer.

Why We’re Winning: Social Justice Warriors and the New Culture War” by Laurie Penny @ Penny Red:

If I sound angry here, it’s because I am. I’m angy because I’ve had to listen to these things being said to and about me and many other women creators I admire for too many years now to be polite about it. My anger, however, is different from the incoherent rage sloshing around 4chan, Reddit, MRA forums and other nests of recreational misogyny right now, because the people perpetrating these attacks on women, the people who are so unspeakably angry that women dare, they dare with their stupid ladyheads and evil ladyparts, they dare to come into their special boy spaces and actually demand a voice, they don’t understand why not everyone can see how right they are, how noble, how absolutely justified they are in their cause. They believe that they are justified because freedom of speech-  except not freedom of speech for women and queers and people of colour, because those people don’t really speak, they just whine, shriek, scream, like animals, because really that’s all they are, animals.

…They can’t understand why their arguments aren’t working. They can’t understand why game designers, industry leaders, writers, public figures are lining up to disown their ideas and pledge to do better by women and girls in the future. They can’t understand why, just for example, when my friend, the games critic and consultant Leigh Alexander, was abused and ‘called out’ as an unprofessional slut, a lying cunt, morally and personally corrupt, just for speaking truthfully and beautifully about all of this, it was Alexander who was invited to write her first piece for Time magazine, Alexander who got to define the agenda for the mainstream, who received praise and recognition, whilst her abusers’ words will be lost in a howling vortex of comment threads and subreddits and, eventually, forgotten.

via @femfreq.

What ‘GamerGate” Reveals About the Silencing of Women” by Katherine Cross @ RhRealityCheck:

However, to avoid speaking publicly about the persecution makes those who do not confront it on a daily basis more likely to dismiss it—or, in the case of GamerGate, to propagate behavior that worsens it. Much like street harassment, it depends on the silent submission of its targets, the passive pseudo-consent of accepting such behavior as the backdrop to everyday life. Sexual harassers on the street want to use women as props to bolster their sense of virility. Political harassers online want their target to be quiet and go away, an anathema to anyone who makes her living by speaking in public.

… and to cap it off, your depression social science data of the week.

In Some Jobs, Past Achievements May be Held Against Female Workers” @ NPR:

VEDANTAM: Exactly. So Inesi and Cable decided to conduct a laboratory experiment to test that question. They recruited volunteers and gave them the same personality test and they tested how strongly these people wanted to maintain gender hierarchies. And then they asked them to play the role supervisors and evaluate subordinates who had resumes and who had performance information and so on. And they found again that for men with traditional views on gender, the more accomplished a woman was, the more competent she was, the worse her performance evaluation became. This was not happening when the supervisors were evaluating men. In those cases, the performance evaluations were stellar. Inesi told me this is dispiriting because for many women, they’ve long felt that having competence, that demonstrating competence and amassing these strong credentials was one way to overcome barriers. Here she is.

INESI: A lot of women say, you know what I’m going to do? I’ll show clear evidence on my CV, my resume, that I am competent. I’m going to get a high degree. I’m going to go to a great school. I’m going to get – do wonderfully in my job, and anybody who sees that can never doubt that I’m highly competent. And what we’re showing here is that down the line, the knowledge of this past competence can actually come back to haunt these women.

As always, if you have links you think the Amiables would find valuable, do shoot us an email at amiablearchivists [at] gmail [dot] com, or find us on Twitter — or right here in comments!

This has been another Wednesday edition of “food for thought.”

food for thought: laboring under illusions of gender

Most of these links revolve around gender in the workplace.

Many of you may have already read (or attended!) Roxanne Shirazi’s presentation on the concept of service in the academy, and how it specifically intersects with the pink collar profession of academic librarianship:

While I welcome calls to make visible the intellectual labor of librarians, such as that issued recently by Trevor Munoz at the Data Driven conference, I don’t want to further isolate and denigrate the important yet often intangible support work that needs to be done and is done by librarians. Let’s focus instead on expanding our conception of what work is valued in the academy: “support diversity of work.” Let’s join our colleagues who are struggling with the narrow system of rewards that favors individual research over (collaborative) service work. The same system in which women, people of color, and queer scholars disproportionately shoulder the burden of committee work, community building, and “service work” that reproduces the academy.

In other academia related news, Historiann reflects on the bias in tenure review and letters of support, noting that women are more likely to receive nit-picky critique even in the context of being recommended for a tenure position:

In the four years I served on that [tenure review] committee, I observed that even in positive reviews recommending tenure, women’s research portfolios would still be picked apart, and reviewers took the time and trouble to rate and rank each and every article and book for its rigor, its creativity, and its impact.  Men’s dossiers rarely received little of the same article-by-article, book-by-book scrutiny.  When in fact a male candidate had some evident weaknesses in his record, such as having no single-authored articles and having only his Ph.D. advisor as his co-author!–reviewers would go out of their way to explain why this obvious weakness was in fact evidence of his awesomeness.  And yes, it was female as well as male reviewers who were hard on women candidates and excused weaknesses in men candidates for tenure.

Women whose work requires an active, participatory online presence (an increasing number of workers — particularly information/knowledge workers) have been asking with an increasing sense of urgency and impatience, Will the Internet Ever be Safe for Women? Samantha Allen observes:

We are accustomed to thinking that the prevalence of sexist Internet harassment is a problem with people rather than a problem with technology. Accordingly, most efforts to make the Internet a more hospitable place for women are reactive approaches that seek to address problems after they take place, rather than proactive approaches that seek to prevent harassment at its technological roots. The only way the editors of Jezebel could try to stop their “rape gif problem,” for example, was to “individually” and “manually” delete comments and ban commenters. Even then, commenters could continue making new accounts and posting more explicit images. Gawker Media has since stepped in with a back-end fix that hides comments from new users until Jezebel or another approved commenter has approved them.

Shweta Narayan offers up some psychological and sociological framing to understand how structural/cognitive categories work to aid and abet oppression:

This is all pretty innocent when it comes to birds! But there is evidence that this sort of category structure is everywhere in human cognition (e.g. people will say 4 is a better even number than 1374.) Now, robins excluding emus from the bird-category, or claiming to understand how emu-ness works because of their experience as robins, might sound like the stuff comic strips are made of; the human dynamics are less funny, and far more harmful to their targets.

So, moving domains to socially relevant categories:

1) Able neurotypical not-fat not-poor straight cis white anglophone American Christian men are considered to be prototypical humans (prototype here = privileged default). So. If you ask people to think of famous people, they will think first of famous able neurotypical not-fat not-poor straight cis white anglophone American Christian men. And their exceptions will normally fall outside this prototype in only one or two ways.

This is how a lot of casual erasure happens. (btw it’s also what’s happening when editors “just happened to think of” a lot of poets/writers/artists who aren’t marginalized, and when poets/writers/artists “just happened to think of” prototypical characteristics to portray.)

2) If someone is not an able neurotypical not-fat not-poor straight cis white anglophone American Christian man, it will generally take people longer to categorize them as human. And the further they are from this prototype the longer it will take to make the judgment. Now, if people take that extra time, we’re probably good; but do they? When they sort resumes / run job interviews, when they’re trigger-happy cops, etc?

(h/t to Geek Feminism)

At RhRealityCheck, women’s health reporter Amanda Marcotte interviewed researcher Christopher Carpowitz about his new book, co-authored with Tali Mendelberg, The Silent Sex: Gender, Deliberation, and Institutions for her podcast. A full transcript is not available, but I highly recommend listening to the interview if you are able (begins at 7:58 and lasts about ten minutes):

The research explored how often women spoke up in participatory decision-making meetings, such as school board meetings or other majority-rule or consensus processes. It will likely not surprise most of you that the research showed that when women were in the minority within a group they spoke up disproportionately less (less even then their small numbers would predict). Men in the minority experienced no such drop. Furthermore, when women were in the minority, when they did participate they experienced a high proportion of negative engagement (disagreement, dismissal) rather than positive engagement (agreement, encouragement, thoughtful reaction). As gender imbalance shifted, not only did women experience more positive interaction due to more women being present, but the men in the group also became more positive. Perhaps because the men did not perceive the women as “out group” members or exceptions to their boy’s club?

And finally, directly relevant to the founding of this group, the SAA Council moved to adopt new terms of participation for the Archives & Archivists list, part of which will explicitly require app A&A participants to adhere to the newly-adopted Code of Conduct. Now the question becomes whether anyone will monitor whether these new terms are actually followed — and whether they solve the problem of marginalization that was at issue.

As always, if you have a link you would like to share in the weekly food for thought, please send it to me an email: amiablearchivists@gmail.com.