#ShutDownAcademia #ShutDownSTEM

Here is the text of my out of office message for tomorrow’s #ShutDownAcademia #ShutDownSTEM:

Subject: Away and Not Responding in observance of #ShutDownAcademia

Today I am away from my desk and not responding to email in observance of #ShutDownAcademia #ShutDownSTEM, a day of reflection and learning on ways to engage more effectively in anti-racist practice and activism: https://www.shutdownstem.com.

I will not be reading or responding to any emails received today. Instead, if you are someone who does not identify as Black, Indigenous, or a Person of the Global Majority (Person of Color), I encourage you to take at least a portion of this day to reflect on ways you can grow as an active accomplice in the fight against racism.

If you do not identify as a Black person in particular, I encourage you to take at least a portion of this day to reflect on ways you can grow as an active accomplice in the fight against anti-Blackness.

In addition to the resources on the #ShutDownAcademia #ShutDownSTEM site, I recommend the following posts from my blog, At the Intersection:


I’ll leave you with a poem I wrote a while back that really captures where my heart is right now:


Ode to the Ancestors

It’s exhausting Mr. Du Bois,

that double consciousness wears me thin

I’se tired

Ms. Rushin, my bridge is broken down,

sagging, ain’t taking nobody else nowhere

I gotta take off this mask

Mr. Dunbar, it itches my face and gives me a rash

I’m hungry, starving

Ms. Simone, but all they offer me is the trauma of that strange fruit

My voice is hoarse and I don’t wanna sing no more

Ms. Angelou, I just wanna break out my cage and fly

But I’ll be alright

Ms. Clifton, we’ll celebrate this life I have shaped

I’ll be okay

Mr. Hughes, that dream deferred is still a dream comin

I thrive

Ancestors, because your legacy is my strength

In solidarity,

AH

Pokémon Stop and Reflect

I’m not a fan of fads.

The last book had long since been released when I finally deigned to read the Harry Potter series. I fell asleep on most of the Star Wars movies, including the originals. I played Nekoatsume for about a minute and really enjoyed it before becoming hopelessly bored and giving up.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a curmudgeon (much). I love video games and all things geek. I’ve played Pokémon on consoles from back when it first came out. I like fun.

But fads in general, and this whole PokémonGo craze in particular, really bother me.

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“pokemon” by 5th Luna via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Here’s why: Fads represent what the dominant culture has decided is cool, necessary, important, valued. Fads never come from marginalized communities, never benefit them, never highlight their needs or desires. Fads are always based on what the dominant, privileged group decides is worth focusing on.

Last week, for about a minute, the dominant, privileged group decided to talk a wee bit about #BlackLivesMatter and police violence and racism. The destruction of black and brown, queer and trans lives, which happens ALL THE TIME, was important for a minute last week. But this week, the dominant, privileged group has decided its far more important to catch imaginary beasties. And we’re all falling right in line.

I am totally disheartened to see so many critical librarians, people who care about social justice and reaching out to patrons beyond the mainstream and into the margins, touting the value of PokémonGo as a way to “reach all the patrons!” I’m not concerned about them enjoying the game for themselves. And while I find the privacy concerns worrying, I also realize that those concerns are no worse with PokémonGo than with any other app anyone uses on their smartphone.

What concerns me is the eagerness with which, we, as a profession, jump on the latest fad or bandwagon in the interest of “reaching out to our patrons.” Too often we do so unthinkingly, unreflectively, not taking the time to question and trouble the implications of that latest fad.

The fact is fads are not for everyone. PokémonGo is not for everyone. It’s not for people with deep privacy concerns, perhaps because they are engaged in important activism and already being surveilled by the so-called authorities. It’s not for people who don’t have the financial resources to maintain a smartphone with loads of data, enough to support the endless running of a location-based app as they wander about town. It’s not for people who don’t have the physical ability to wander around town staring at a tiny screen or the manual dexterity to put an augmented reality creature in a red and white ball on that tiny screen. If the focus of our library outreach du jour centers on PokémonGo, then we are effectively telling all these folks that, at best, we’re not thinking of them and, at worst, we don’t care about them.

There’s nothing wrong with bringing popular stuff into the library to draw people in. It’s part of our marketing strategies. But we need to be careful that we do this, as with everything we do, critically, reflectively, constantly asking the key questions: Who is this really for? Who will benefit? Who will be excluded? What message does this send to those in the margins?

By all means, have fun catching your Pokémon. But as we develop new means of outreach in our libraries, let’s also look beyond the fads, beyond the mainstream, and make sure we’re reaching those who are forever on the margins.

It’s My Struggle–Give Me Space

One of my Twitter faves recently tweeted this about something that happened to a friend of hers:

This friend was organizing meetings for local people of color to mobilize for the #blacklivesmatter movement in his public library. The library was happy to offer the space until they realized the meetings were meant to be for non-whites only and shut it down. Now, this person has to find new space for the meetings.

This kind of issue comes up quite a bit. It’s definitely a concern for people who don’t understand or care about issues of oppression. The so-called colorblind, neutrality-believers who don’t get that neutrality is a myth and all things are tinted by the systemic bias inherent to our society. They always have a problem with things like affirmative action and exclusive spaces.

I’m not talking to or about those folks. They still have a lot of work to do.

No, I’m talking about allies. Those folks who consider themselves to be woke and progressive and all about the cause, but who hate coming up against exclusive safe spaces to which they are not welcome or invited. Allies who want to fight alongside their marginalized counterparts but only want to do so on their own terms. Those are the people I’m talking to and about.

The fact is that people from the margins need safe spaces. We need places we can go to laugh, cry, scream, and shout among our own. We need exclusive spaces where we can curse our lot, speak our minds, and then dry our faces and take back up our fighting stances. We need places where we can be weak and vulnerable without being in danger or exposed.

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“Always Curious What’s Behind Closed Doors” by Vincent Van Der Pas via Flickr,             CC BY-SA 2.0

As a black woman, I need space apart from white women to rage about how white women mistreat feminism. I need space apart from white men to rage about how white men mistreat blacks and women and black women. I even need space at times apart from my black brothers to rage about the patriarchy in our shared black community.

That doesn’t mean I hate white women or white men, and I certainly don’t hate my black brothers. But I need that space. And I need it to be exclusive.

Likewise, as a Christian, cisgender hetero woman with an able body and middle-class background, I understand that my atheist friends need space, my trans friends need space, my queer friends need space, my disabled and working-class friends need space apart from me to work through some of their struggle. And I understand that as a good ally, I need to respect, and at times help protect, that exclusive space.

To fight against that exclusive space as an ally is to insist that the struggle be centered on me, on my feelings, my needs, my desires. That is not good allyship. Being an ally means standing to the side and lending support. It does not mean being at the center. It does not involve performing theater as the star of the show.

I am forever grateful for my allies, for the white men and women, and the black men who stand in solidarity with me. But there are still places I need to go where they cannot follow. And that is okay.

Because good allies, true allies, will stand at the gates to the exclusive safe space and wait for me there.