Addendum to SRRT Newsletter Issue 211, June 2020

Conrad Pegues, Chair
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Ad Hoc Committee
The Black Caucus of the American Library Association

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association tasked itself with responding to the horrible video of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Mr. Floyd pleaded “I can’t breathe!” and “Mama!” before dying. Like so many others, the BCALA heard his cry.

Juxtapose this murder with the deadly coronavirus which also suffocates. People of color are hurting. Blacks along with other historically disenfranchised groups such as Native Americans and Latinxs are suffering and dying in disproportionate numbers when compared to their white counterparts. Race, poverty, and lack of access to quality medical care perpetuate these inequities. 

The neglect and slaughter of Blacks are ubiquitous in America. The pandemic and the latest murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd demonstrate the disparities. As an organization, BCALA acknowledges that a growing catalog of Black people in this country die through no fault of their own. This injustice occurs while partaking in activities as innocent as jogging, sleeping, or bird watching in New York’s Central Park.

Though librarians are tasked with providing answers, the death of George Floyd has left us with critical questions. Many wonder, “Am I my brother and sister’s keeper?” The Black Caucus of the American Librarian Association strove to collectively answer that question by not only condemning George Floyd’s murder but encouraging our members and colleagues to become active in local community-building and policy-making that particularly counters the systemic effort to destroy Black people in America. Our statement reminded members and allies that they can enact change right where they live and serve. 

The BCALA has a long history of responding to racism in America and the library field. Our professional mantel was borne of necessity. In response to segregation, Black librarians were forced to create their own brand of librarianship to meet the needs of the communities that they served.  As a result of the constancy of Black killings with impunity and the paucity of justice, we found it necessary to make a public statement. We remain united with our own Black communities in refusing to silently surrender to the toxicity that is racism in America.