OVERDUE: Weeding Out Oppression in Libraries

Episode 6: How Bias, Power and Privilege Show Up In Libraries with Christina Fuller-Gregory

August 31, 2022 OLA EDI & Antiracism Committee Season 1 Episode 6
OVERDUE: Weeding Out Oppression in Libraries
Episode 6: How Bias, Power and Privilege Show Up In Libraries with Christina Fuller-Gregory
Show Notes Transcript

In this Dear Abby-style episode, Christina Fuller-Gregory — facilitator of the Libraries of Eastern Oregon EDI Cohort, and principal consultant with Fuller Potential Consulting— offers advice for library workers faced with inequity, microaggressions, and racism in the workplace. The following experiences are true, and they were curated from library workers across Oregon and the U.S.
 
 Date of interview: June 15, 2022
 Hosts: Brittany Young & Roxanne M. Renteria
  
 Questions and inquiries for Fuller Potential Consulting can be emailed to:
 christinafuller-gregory@yourfullest.com
 
 OLA EDI & Antiracism Toolkit: https://bit.ly/3qSMDF7

[Intro Music Playing]

Brittany Young:               
This is the podcast, OVERDUE, Weeding Out Oppression in Libraries. This episode is about bias, unconscious bias, privilege, and power. It is produced by the Oregon Library Association’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Antiracism committee. My name is Brittany Young. My pronouns are she, her, hers, and I am the Lane County law librarian for the Lane County Law Library in Eugene, Oregon.

Roxanne M. Renteria: 
And my name is Roxanne M. Renteria. My pronouns are she, her, hers. I'm a community librarian with Deschutes Public Library in Central Oregon. Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with Christina Fuller-Gregory. Christina uses she, her, hers pronouns and is a librarian, maker and experienced equity, diversity, inclusion and social justice practitioner. In addition to being the assistant director of libraries at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Christina is also the principal consultant at Fuller Potential Consulting. Christina was one of three consultants brought in by the Libraries of Eastern Oregon with support and funding from the State Library of Oregon to lead a nine-month long training around OLAs, EDI, and anti-racism toolkit. The training, which took place primarily online with two days of in-person learning amongst six cohorts around Eastern Oregon and surrounding areas culminated in May with participants brainstorming a project to show knowledge gained and commitment to EDI and anti-racism efforts in Oregon libraries.
 
Christina is currently working with the Cultural Proficiencies for Racial Equity joint task force on finalizing a framework that will serve as a foundational resource to help public and academic libraries build inclusive cultures within libraries and their broader communities. Welcome, Christina. Shall we get started with an icebreaker question? Christina, what fictional family would you be a member of, if you could?

Christina Fuller-Gregory:  
So Roxanne, this is an interesting question, because when I think about it, I think about all the TV families and all the book families, and I want to say the Weasleys or something. But, to be honest, I read a really good book this year and it was The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. And I really this book because it was found family. So they were monsters and they were children who were monsters. And so this man finds these monsters and then they become a family. They're a family of their own choosing, of their own making. So something about that really resonated with me. I have some really wonderful library friends, and I always consider them family. So definitely, I would want a family like The House in the Cerulean Sea, because that was just their found family. And they had that bond. A great question.

Roxanne M. Renteria: 
I love that answer. What a fantastical book.

Brittany Young:              
I also love that answer and being a big fan of Halloween and monsters, I love that they're a monster family. Now I need to read it.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:          
It is such a good book. It is one of the best books I've read this year. And what I really love about it is it was a suggestion of a teen. So one of our power library users came in and suggested it. And it was a wonderful choice. I read it in a weekend and it was a great read. You have to try it, Brittany.

Brittany Young:              
I also love that it was recommended by teen. I miss working with teens.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:  
Yeah. They're very honest. They're very honest to a fault.

Brittany Young:               
Yes. As our children too.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:  
Exactly. Absolutely. Absolutely. You never know what they will say, but it most definitely always honest.

Brittany Young:               
Exactly. I appreciate that about them. So this podcast we're going to do a little bit different than some of our other podcasts. We're going to read scenarios to Christina and the scenarios include a question at the end that Christina will answer. So I'm going to start with this first scenario. "I just got hired. I just got hired at  less than my identical white female hire based on professional librarian experience," quote, unquote. "When the job description called for a..." quote, unquote, "... range of experiences, how can we ensure pay equity in libraries?"

Christina Fuller-Gregory:  
Brittany, what a good question. So that question has so many different layers. And as I think about this question and really thinking about it, I want to make sure that the response to this is relevant and timely and led by an understanding of HR practice. So as such, I reached out to a really great HR manager, a dynamic HR manager. Her name is Sherry Shumpert Adams, and she is the HR manager at Nashville Public Library, where they're doing great work. And so I want to share some of the things that she really wanted to amplify, and I'm going to share it on her behalf, if you all don't mind.

So there are three talking points. So I understand the equity, diversity and inclusion practice, so the pay equity and I understand pay inequity. But from an HR standpoint, there are a couple of things that need to be happening here. So Sherry suggests that there are three things you do. And the first is to talk with HR about your concern with pay equity. And so in doing this, having these conversations, what she suggests is to ask for an analysis of how BIPOC salaries rank with others in the same classifications and with that similar experience, because in looking at that scenario and that question, it called for that range of experience and that professional librarian experience, but really unpacking, in your institution, what that looks and what the breakdown is.

It could be something that's really systemic. It could be something that's ongoing where BIPOC folks are just being underpaid. So getting that information, asking for it. Another tip is to find out if the library that you're working for has an EDI or affinity group or an ERG, or employee resource group, serving BIPOC folks. And so in doing this, you could really leverage that relationship and get that group to position and present your concern on your behalf. Because let's just face it, if you are a new person, new hire coming in, you don't necessarily have that capital to advocate on your own behalf, because you're so new and you worry. There's no real psychological safety there with you being so new. So thinking about that. Having an ERG or an affinity group advocate on your behalf.

Now this is one I really think is interesting and I am kind of in two minds, because I think it's a great idea. But at an appropriate time, after you've talked with your manager about pay equity, you've mentioned this and you've brought forth your observations about pay equity or inequity, and you get this glowing performance evaluation. So you are dynamic, you're thriving, you're doing everything right. You're past that probationary period. You have a little bit more footing, more grounding, more psychological safety. You know the lay of the land, so to speak.

Then you circle back when you're getting your performance review, and you have an opportunity to really sit and redirect and refocus, you bring it back up again. You circle back. You say, "Hey, thank you for seeing me. Thank you for valuing my work. However, I do want to note that I am aware of a difference in pay between myself and my white coworker." That gives you the leverage. So the success and you doing what you needed to do gives you that power to be able to say, "I must advocate for myself." So those are some three tips that were shared by this dynamic HR professional, Sherry Shumpert Adams.

And she also, in talking to her over the years, she's always said be really specific about asking those questions about equity, pay equity and what steps are needed to address the issue. So not just letting it lie with the conversation, not letting it in there, but saying, "Okay, let's level up. What do I need to do to fix it? What can be done to mitigate this problem?"

Brittany Young:               
Thank you, Christina, for that answer. And I know I appreciate the HR perspective too.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:         
I think we need that perspective. I could tell you from equity, diversity inclusion and anti-racist perspective, but I think Sherry brings something to the table that we really need. We have to have a deep understanding of the HR practice and how it works in relation to us advocating. So BIPOC folks advocating for what we need. And I think that there are times when we could be at a disadvantage and not knowing what the HR practice is and how it works in our benefits or to our detriment. So we've really got to get in there and unpack that and ask those important questions.

Brittany Young:               
It's always good to be close to your HR, so that way you can feel more comfortable asking them those questions too.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:       
Exactly. And exactly. And then if you're not close to your HR, being close to someone's HR, which means ensuring that you build that network where you're able to reach out to someone in the HR practice, because these questions, they're not questions that they don't have not heard before. Even if they're not within your organization, they should be able to of point you in the right direction, much like Sherry did with these questions.

Roxanne M. Renteria:     
So our second scenario is a bit long, but the details matter. "I am a black woman and I have a white coworker that is constantly making rude and unnecessary comments that are clearly made to cut me down. Stuff like, quote, "It's so nice to be able to roll out of bed and not have to worry about being late, because of needing to do my hair or something," unquote. Then she'll turn and look at me and continue, quote, "I'm sure it's not that simple for you. I am so sorry," unquote.

 "Or another time we were talking about coordinating a silly dance at the library and she volunteered me to lead because, quote, "Surely you know how to dance well?" End quote. I have told her that her comments come off as stereotypical and rude and she either blows me off, saying she was just kidding and telling me I can't take a joke or acts I somehow twisted what she said. This happens all the time. I don't even bother talking to my manager, because I know nothing will be done about it. How should a good manager respond to microaggressions in the library? And what is the cost of letting microaggressions go unaddressed?"

Christina Fuller-Gregory:  
Thank you for this question, Roxanne. This is a really good question. And I think what really resonates with me about this question is that it's just something that I have heard before. So although it is in a new question today with this episode of the podcast, it is not something that I have not heard before. So someone else has gone through this exact same thing. So let unpack this, because there are a couple of things happening here. First, let's just lay it on the line. This woman is being micro-aggressed. So when we talk about that microaggressions, we talk about it all the time, those small and perceptible slights and those things that people say and do, their thinking that we're not going to really notice that they're happening. So the people who could commit these slights, these micro-aggressors, they do so and then they attempt to cover up their behavior.

And they say things to us like, "Oh, I was just joking. Can't you take a joke? You're so sensitive. Oh, I didn't mean anything by it." Or, "I love your hair. I love your eyes. I love your dance moves." So when you call them out, instantly something switches and they were joking, or they were kidding, or they meant nothing by it. But at the end of the day, it still exists as a microaggression. Something meant to diminish someone else. So beyond the stereotyping, beyond that stereotyping, because in the scenario, Roxanne, you said that stereotype, you used that word. But beyond this, the white coworker is practicing some definite explicit bias along with that microaggression. And so sometimes you want to say, "Oh, it's implicit. They don't know they're doing it." Absolutely. Yes, they do. And this bias, explicit bias, they know they're doing it. There's an awareness there, because in the scenario, there's this mentioning of a frequent recurrence of verbiage and behaviors that are really meant to diminish. So their intentional. So we see this.

And I also want to note something that really bothered me about this particular scenario is that it happens all the time. So the person says, "This happens all the time." And for me and listening to this, I listened and I felt it. It was really visceral for me. Because this was indicative of a cultural problem. So a more systemic problem with that internal culture that I will say psychological safety 20 times during this podcast today, because I believe in it, because this is not rooted in psychological safety. So there's something deeper going on there. But what needs to happen, so the real answer to that question after these observations I've made, is that a good manager, a really good manager responds in real time to microaggressions.

So in our libraries, in libraries, in general, there's been this tendency for us to make excuses for bad behavior. So how many times have we worked with someone and they've been like, "Oh, Jim has been here for many years. He's just grumpy with everyone." "Aw, Michelle didn't mean anything by what she said. She's a children's librarian and she doesn't have a mean bone in her body. She loves everybody." But when you're managing, when you're managing for success, when you're a good manager, you're able to separate the action from the individual. And so what I mean by this is that you have to be able to recognize that the actions of the individual.

So for instance, this person who is asking them to do the silly dance or commenting about their hair, these actions are negative. They're debasing, they're harmful. And these actions, they may not align with who that manager believes that person to be, but they have to be able to observe and call out the actions. So beyond them thinking, "This is a nice person or a grumpy person," or whatever, good managers are able to see that action and call it out. And when they are doing that, when they're really able to say, "I see what's happening here," then that allows the manager to speak directly to that action, develop and implement an action plan in response to those actions. So that person who's saying, "Oh, your hair or you're dancing," or any of those statements that marginalize someone, they're able to say, "Look, this is not permissible here. So what I'm going to do is not only are you going to go through training, but I am going to write you up. I am watching what you do. This is not going to be consistent. This is not going to be something that's acceptable here."

 And then, finally, when you're doing all that, it allows you, a good manager, to hold that person accountable. And you should be. The accountability piece must be there. It must exist. When we don't have that happening. When we don't have a manager who's willing to hold people accountable, not willing to address, in real time, not willing to develop an action plan for that staff member in response to their behavior, then we have larger problems. And we can't even address all that during this podcast. But then we have a much larger internal issue.

Roxanne M. Renteria:      
Thank you for so clearly delineating between what it means or what it means in our minds to be a good person versus the action. I think you're speaking to binary thinking, and it's something that we tend to fall back on, even in the library world. And so I really appreciate that you clearly spoken to that issue.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:  
Yeah. Thank you, Roxanne. We definitely have. In libraries, I think I would say that it is our default response. I think in libraries and in our profession, we like to see the good in everyone we work with. Sometimes to our own detriment, we fail to recognize when biases exist, when we are practicing micro and macroaggressions, when we have staff members who doing things like this, we don't always want to see it, even though we should be, and we must see it in order to acknowledge it and fix it and really create a healing atmosphere, we've got to be able to see it. And so you're definitely right. We see things in that binary way of thinking where, "Oh, no, this person is this way or that way." We can't see that person can be a wonderful children's librarian, but also informed by explicit and implicit biases.

Roxanne M. Renteria: 
Absolutely. And our coworkers deserve better than the death by a thousand cuts.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:         
Yes, absolutely.

Brittany Young:               
You both just explained that binary and the separating of the action from the individual so well. I know that is something that I'm going to take with me from this podcast episode. So thank you both. Our next scenario reads as "I am a very light-skinned and passing black librarian. I worked for a library once that asked me to pick out a few of the people that came to my library programs for a picture they intended to use to advertise our, quote, unquote, "Typical programs." But asked me to only select people who were, quote, unquote, "Diverse." When I said that I didn't feel comfortable hand-selecting patrons based on how they looked for a number of reasons and that I personally found the question to be inappropriate, the first response I got back was, quote, unquote, "To be fair, when I asked you to do that, I didn't know you were black." Thoughts?

Christina Fuller-Gregory:   
Wow. I have thoughts. Thank you for that, Brittany. Wow. Well, to some degree, I guess they were saying that it was less about the person who wrote this being black and more about not presenting as largely homogenous. That's the feeling I get. So number one, they diminished a person's identity, but they were saying, "Oh no, we didn't even know you were black. We just really basically wanting to present," as not what they really were. But the thing is, this is something that happens in organizations of all types. It happens in libraries. It happens in colleges and universities. It happens in non-profits. It happens wherever there's marketing created. I'm thinking with Roxanne and Brittany, both of you think with me, how many times have you seen marketing for a college with a stock photo of a group of white students with one, or if we're lucky two, BIPOC individuals and they're all smiling and laughing on the cover. Have you all seen those?

Roxanne M. Renteria: 
Yes.

Brittany Young:               
Absolutely.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:          
It comes to mind. That is something that we do. And it is something that we do also in libraries. I think that, for us, the intended effect is that the organization appears welcoming and inclusive and diverse. We want that to be the case. "Oh, let's put all white people and two BIPOC folks on the cover, and then what we appear to be is a welcoming and diverse organization." But what happens instead though, when we're looking at it is very tokenistic. It is less than genuine. And for me it has become a running thing. I'll say with me and my family, my friends, we always notice it. Whenever we're looking at brochures and we see that happen with that stop photography or even images of students, we know that is maybe an organic friendship that is in play on that cover. But a lot of ways, it's happened to the person who wrote the scenario, where they've been asked to go and pluck people and bring them in.

 I think about this. And what would you think if you saw a marketing piece that included a group of all black, Asian, or Latinx patron seated together on the front of a brochure? What happens then? What message would that send? And so I'm thinking more deeply. I'm thinking about it differently now. So what does that look like on the library's brochure cover? So what message does that send? I think that sends a really positive message as well. So we've been working from a formula for inclusive marketing for many years. And I think that method that we currently use, where we pluck two people who may not even know the rest of the people that they're on the cover with laughing, that method isn't viable anymore. I think we have to ultimately reimagine our messaging. And I think the messaging that we must convey is that we don't have to manufacture. We don't have to manufacture. We don't have to pluck people. We don't have to tokenize people just for the sake of our marketing. We don't to. We can show genuine relationships and it's okay. It is okay to show those genuine relationships.

 And I think more than anything in that scenario, that move away from tokenizing people and creating these methods and these marketing pieces where they're not genuine. I think that's what we need to be doing as libraries, trying to think, how can we more deeply convey everyone in our community? What does that picture look like for us? What do those images look for us? We know that we do have a community that has diversity, but then how do we show that and reflect that diversity? It is not just those two people who are sitting in a larger group of white people. It may look different, but it takes time and effort for us to think about what that looks like. And we have to be willing to put forth that effort.

Brittany Young:               
I appreciate you mentioning that it takes effort and that you don't need to manufacture. There's one library that comes to mind that, while library as a whole has some issues, their marketing is at least genuine photos of the actual patrons that are there. They get sheets to give permission to use those photos, which is wonderful, but it does take extra time and it means paying somebody to do that work. So I appreciate you saying that, because more often than not, I see those stock photos that you're talking about. And that doesn't seem genuine.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:  
It is not. And it doesn't even truly reflect the diversity of your community. You may have a strong indigenous population. You may have a strong Asian population and you're not reflecting and you're not tapping into it. You're not honoring them by doing this. So it does. It takes that work, Brittany. But I think it's well worth the work, because I think our community members would love to see themselves reflected. And in our libraries, we talk about our windows, mirrors, sliding doors. It comes up all the time. And so I think having people be able to see the mirrors, they see themselves reflected back in our marketing is amazing. It's empowering. It shows that we do have a greater understanding of who we serve and that everyone is welcome, because we are really meeting that mission by reflecting them in our marketing materials.

Brittany Young:               
And really the work pays off in marketing, because I know that we would have patrons all the time when a new brochure came out, everyone came in and wanted to see it, because they wanted to see if their picture was inside or if they knew somebody.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:     
Exactly. There is something so special about that. Like, "Oh, I know them. Oh, my goodness." And I really absolutely love those genuine and organic groupings. So if I am deciding if I do want to go to a school or if I do want to go to a library program and I just see this group reflected on the page and they look me and I never thought that people who looked me were in the library or maybe used library services as much as this particular group did. And they're there being reflected, because they're hanging out and enjoying a program. I'm thinking, "Wow, I see myself here and I want to be here too."

Roxanne M. Renteria:     
Scenario four as follows. "I had worked in libraries for over 20 years. I was working in a library and we acquired an intern. I supervised the intern and trained them. Then our manager had to resign. The library director made the intern our new manager. There were two other people working in the department, a woman from China who had tons of experience and me, who had over 20 years experience working in a variety of departments in both public and academic libraries. The woman from China is Asian and had an accent. I am indigenous slash Latinx. The library director chose a white woman who had no experience over two much more qualified individuals, who were not white. I no longer work in libraries and would postulate that many BIPOC don't want to work under conditions like this. This library is located in the most liberal, woke area of Oregon. This is my story, but I've heard similar stories from BIPOC library workers. How can we change this environment?"

Christina Fuller-Gregory:      
Thank you, Roxanne. So this question is really tough, because it calls forth all those ideas and reminiscences of experiences that I've had in libraries. So where you know that you are the BIPOC worker and you are working really hard, you're good at what you do and you train someone and then that person that you train actually comes up and becomes your manager. So if that is really interesting. And, unfortunately, what this writer describes is all too familiar when it comes to the field of librarianship and that whole piece around BIPOC hiring and retention. Because while the person who wrote the scenario was in libraries and was working in libraries and, as you could tell, had 20 plus years, in the scenario, has 20 plus years of experience was really invested in this work. It's exhausting not to be able to grow. I think each of us want to really grow in the profession. So if you're committed to the work and you're invested in the work, you want to reap the rewards of the work.

 And, unfortunately, we got the hiring piece. It seems in some libraries where we're like, "Okay, well we hire BIPOC folks." Great. But beyond that hiring, the retention piece is where we fall short. We fall short, because we don't do the work it takes to keep that person. We don't promote. We don't prepare. And so when we don't promote you, which means we see you working hard every day, but we don't give you the advancement that you deserve and we don't prepare you. So we prepare people in a lot of ways who, and I've seen it, people who are in those positions of power, they prepare people who look a lot them. And so a lot of this and what is in this scenario in particular, what we're seeing made manifest here are the manifestations of white supremacist culture. And we particularly see it in paternalism, where decision making is only clear to the decision makers without care or concern for explaining the decision-making process.

So for instance, those two people who worked, the person from China, who's Asian, and then the person who was Latinx, there's absolutely this train this intern. And then, "Oh, we're going to bring this person in as your manager." No explanation as to why and what the decision-making process was around this. It's just kind of "Accept this," that paternalism that happens. And then we're seeing this whole idea of power hoarding, which happens all the time when white supremacist culture, where "I'm going to hire people that look like me, remind me of me, dress like me, talk like me, more me." And so that power hoarding into a really large tree here is that perfectionism piece. And so when I think about the perfectionism piece around white supremacist culture, I think about how it relates to a predetermined, unvoiced standard of excellence. So that manager, whoever that person was, that brought in this intern and hired them over those two well-qualified people, they have this predetermined standard of excellence. It's unvoiced.

 So they've never said it. They never said, "In order to be advanced, you must have this, this, this." But they, in their head, they know exactly what it is. And that unvoiced standard that has been set for what the right fit looks like. And I think we all understand that. That right fit or that person who's the right candidate. And they know exactly, because they're of the perfectionism that is so deeply correlates with white supremacist culture. They know what that looks like in their head. They know what it looks like. And unfortunately it did not look the Asian woman, who had worked there for many years, or the Latinx person, who worked there for many years, 20 years. So all of these parts and pieces and these reminisces of white supremacist culture that show up in libraries is really what ties back to this lack of retention. So the hiring we got, it seems that we have the hiring piece. We know what we need to do in terms of unfortunately checking the box and hiring. But beyond that hiring piece, beyond that, beyond bringing a person on, then what? Then what?

The retention piece is where we fail, is where we've gone wrong, because we're not setting BIPOC folks up for success. We're not preparing them. We're not advancing them. We're not promoting them. So then they're like, "I know what I'm worth. I know my worth." And they leave this profession and we lose out, because then we don't have those strong leaders. Those people who could very well become library directors, branch managers, branch librarians. And they decide that they want to go into other arenas and unless and until we figure it out, we continue to lose in this way. So that scenario really resonated deeply with me, because the story was all too familiar. And I've seen this happen so many times.

Roxanne M. Renteria:     
Thank you for breaking down white supremacist culture for our listeners, Christina and validating what so many BIPOC library workers understand to be true, which is we do not operate in a meritocracy. And, unfortunately, this story isn't unique. I think you're right. There are so many hardworking and deserving library workers of color who are overlooked for promotions due to things like paternalism and affinity bias. And I really hope that the managers and supervisors who are listening to this episode take note and really work toward retaining by BIPOC library workers.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:          
It has to be a priority, Roxanne. It can't just be... We can no longer pay lip service. We can no longer virtue signal. It has to be something that we are making true commitment to. It can't be that "I just want to hire this person because they're Latinx. And then I absolutely abandon them once they're here." It has to be a shepherding, a mentoring, a caring that happens post-hire, so that we truly are embodying this reflective community in terms of our profession. If we don't do that work, if we are not doing the work, then we lose out. We are going to be just like we've always been, which is a largely homogenous profession led predominantly by white women. Let's just be honest.

Roxanne M. Renteria:  
Exactly.

Brittany Young:             
I know a lot of what we end up talking about around equity, diversity and inclusion work is people taking one step and then just stopping there and thinking they're done. So I appreciate laying out that next step. For me, it makes it, hopefully, pretty obvious to people, like, "You've done step one. This is step two. Also there's more steps after that, because this is a forever thing."

Christina Fuller-Gregory:         
Yes. I love that, Brittany. It is. It is a forever thing. I love that. And for me, I also think about it in terms of I think it's wonderful when someone's culturally competent, but I think it's even better when you're culturally proficient. And the difference between cultural competence and cultural proficiency is that continuum. It is that desire to continue to grow, is that forever thing that you just said. It is that desire to practice it as a forever thing and not just, "Oh, I took two trainings and I'm a subject matter expert in this. I know everything there is to know now, because I attended three trainings and I read four articles." No, it is that understanding that this never stops.

I never stop learning. I never stop learning. People teach me every day. And it's that openness with which we practice this with me being really vulnerable, making myself vulnerable to saying, "I know I don't know everything, but I have a deep desire to know all I can."

Brittany Young:              
I also appreciate that you mentioned the, quote, unquote, "right-fit" candidate, because I'm getting ready to hire at my library. And I know I've used the word right fit. And now I'm just going to be rethinking when I hear that or it comes up in my head, "What am I really saying? What's underlying that?" to check myself.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:      
Absolutely.

Brittany Young:               
I appreciate that. Our next scenario reads, "While facilitating a discussion group of white people learning about white privilege, discussing calling in versus calling out and the fear surrounding speaking up, a participant asked, "What if I speak up for my black coworker and my boss instead punishes them? How would you advise why allies or collaborators fearing retaliation could be brought on the person or persons they were intending to help?""

Christina Fuller-Gregory:  
So in thinking about this, I think that one of the best ways for us to create an environment where people can feel safe to voice or feel safe to act as an advocate, an ally amplify or co-conspirator or whatever your wheelhouse may be is to create a mechanism for communicating concerns or problems. I think a lot of times we don't do that. So there are instances in which we want to act, we want to be able to say something, we want to be able to support. I think that support is only successful when the mechanism, our system, is in place. So what do I mean by that? I mean leadership, have they developed a mechanism for leveling concerns? Is this something that they've created? Is there something on the library's internal side website where they are able to report out and share concerns that are equity related, inclusion related, diversity related? Who handles those responses?

How are they addressing them? So what is the turnover? So turnaround time. So what is the mechanism? Is it a form that someone is able to complete? Is there anonymity tied to this form? Because if you're able to give voice... A lot of times we want to support. And I think that retribution piece, we want to be able to support, but a lot of, we also fear retribution for not just the BIPOC person there, but we fear it for ourselves. We're like, "Oh, I want to say this, but I really need my job." And it's a real fact. We cannot ignore that. But I think in a lot of ways, if there's a mechanism that is tied to anonymity, which I've seen be really successful and there's an accountability piece in leadership where they don't want to know who is saying this, who's calling this out. They don't necessarily have to know that, but they do want it to be shared.

And there's a mechanism for follow through and follow up. I think that is a good way to do it. But then there are the instances when you are forced to say something in real time, you just cannot let it stand. You have to address it. And I think it's all in the way that you do address it. I would call it out. I would say it. I'm a big believer in saying things verbally in a moment saying it, but I also follow up with documentation and I send emails. And I do it because it's a lot of CYA. So I'm a big believer in CYA. Whatever that may be. I'm not going to say it, because we're on a podcast. But I'm a big believer in keeping that as sending up a follow-up email to those people, once I've addressed them, restating what I verbally stated.

Brittany Young:               
Thank you for that, Christina. I love the process piece. And I think that the anonymity piece is important. I know in some academic libraries you can report faculty, for instance, for those kinds of things and students can report them too. Unfortunately, that anonymity isn't there. And I've seen it be very problematic. I also have heard from faculty that sometimes claims come in and the faculty need to defend themselves. But in that case, the students not in the position of power. So I would usually vote for anonymity on their side.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:  
And I think that anonymity is a safety measure for a lot of people because I think we all have in us this innate desire to act as an amplifier, ally, advocate, co-conspirator. We want to be able to get to that point. But for a myriad of reasons, sometimes we are not apt to be as vocal. We're not going to stand up and say, "Stop this right now." But I guarantee you there's strength in numbers. And if someone feels safe enough to be able to go in and fill out a form in which they call out the things that are happening to their coworkers, that they feel are practices of bias microaggressions. I'm sure the numbers tell the story, because you start getting more and more feedback because as that is promoted, they feel safe enough to do it. They see that the people who did it initially have received responses back, those responses have been positive or those responses have been tied to action, not in action.

Not just saying thank you for your form completion and never hearing anything again, but has been tied to something where they're seen an active response. They've seen something happen behind that. I think then that gives people the strength to even to dig a little bit deeper and really be vocal in support. Even if it's not using their words, it's going into a form, but there is strength in numbers in that way. The more people that do it, the better.

Roxanne M. Renteria: 
And you mentioned strength in numbers, which is scary as it can be to call somebody out in the moment. I think in some ways it can provide a safety net to have other witnesses.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:   
I definitely think so. And so that's why I said if you call somebody out in the moment, always go back and follow up with what you said in that moment, because you have to do that. You have to that mechanism. Everything we do when it ties to EDI work, I hate to say it, is checks and balances. There's a lot of instances we're acting and advocating in environments where we don't necessarily have support for this work or full support for this work. We may have partial support for this work. We might have a quarter support for this work. So we don't always have the support that we need, full support. So we have to be really clever in our strategies. We have to be really smart in our actions.

And so a lot of that, like you said, Roxanne is that power is number. So if you do go into a situation with someone or you know that you may be one of four BIPOC folks and you know that this situation that you're entering may be precarious or is unsafe, talking about it with them beforehand and saying, "Hey, I think that we might need to stand together. If I say this, will you stand by me? Will you align with me? Will you support?" And beyond BIPOC coworkers who should not have to do all the advocacy and heavy lifting of this work, it is your white coworkers who you then turn to and say, "Hey, you're my friend. We eat lunch together every day. I fully hope that you will support me if this situation is unsafe for me."

And that is that expectation that you set. That you're going into this. "I need your support. I hope that you will speak up on my behalf. I hope you will act as an amplifier for me. Because I can't always act as an amplifier on my own behalf." But it is important. And that is I think why we teach everyone, this is why we go through trainings, this is why we build our capacity around EDI work, so that we can begin to demonstrate the power of amplifying people and people's voices acting as amplifiers and knowing when and how to step in. So all of that is really important.

Roxanne M. Renteria: 
Thank you for those actionable tips.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:   
Thanks, Roxanne.

Roxanne M. Renteria:  
Scenario six. "At one point in my career, I was one of only two Latinx employees at my library. I am white passing, but my former colleague is not. During the course of working together. My colleague confided in me. Her manager, a member of the hiring committee, revealed the reason my colleague was offered the position is because she, quote, "Looked the part," unquote. On its face, this was a deeply offensive thing for her manager to say. More so, once you considered my colleague exceeded the minimum and preferred qualifications, is bilingual and culturally competent. At the time, all I could do was commiserate. Christina, the request for advice comes into parts. First, how can white or white-passing colleagues support BIPOC coworkers who are on the receiving end of these types of micro-insults. And second, what recourse do BIPOC library employees have in these situations?"

Christina Fuller-Gregory:     
Thank you, Roxanne. So I'm just going to organically answer it, if you don't mind. I'm just going to or organically answer it as I heard it and speak to it a little bit. This scenario is really troubling. It's really troubling. I think that it must be said and acknowledged that, and I'm going to speak again about this whole hiring practice, because this really reminds me of the question that we answered earlier. So that whole hiring piece and the issues that for so long we've had with hiring and retention of BIPOC library workers, and what really resonates with me is that the problems that we have and have had are due in part to a history and a past of hiring library workers who looked the part, as the scenario says, "I looked the part." And for far too long looking the part meant being white. I know had I been in the position of this employee, I would've asked, "What exactly is looking the part? And in what way do I meet this criteria?"

But I also understand that for BIPOC library workers, there exists powerlessness and we think about that power and those five faces of oppression and we talk about that a lot, that powerlessness that comes with being new to an organization, a minority within that organization. And we've alluded to this during our time talking today, but that fear of retribution if we voice our concerns or even address inequities. And so that's tough. And I think that for allies, so people who are really wanting to step in, what needs to happen is doing it in real time, making sure that you're asking those important questions, how do you support them when they're going through these micro insults, you step up and say something. If you are a part of the hiring panel, there has to be some standard set that have to do with the hiring panel.

I think as a whole, we only see and are able to implement those substantive changes related to things like this, instances of this, which are really hiring and retention when we evaluate our hiring practices and language. So that's one of the things we can do. Where's the language around the hiring practice? Who is sitting on our hiring committees? Is everyone in on the hiring panel looking similar? Are all they all the same? Do you have any diverse representation on this panel? And when I say diverse representation on the panel, I mean is everyone on the panel a library leader? I think we should have different roles on hiring panels as well. So it's not all leadership on a panel, not all administrators or directors or people who manage others. It could be people who are lateral on a panel. So thinking about things like that.

So processes and language move beyond diversity to inclusion. And so for those who are really wanting to help out and act as allies and support that person, think about how you help your organization move past simple diversity to a place of inclusion. So we'd love, love, love to say, "We have X many BIPOC members of our staff." We say that all the time. "We have 10 members." "Oh, my library has this many members." And it's almost like a pat on the back, but what are we doing to support those BIPOC members of our staff once they're there. And I really am asking this question to those of you listening to the podcast, who are in the position to hire, who are hiring and who are managing BIPOC folks in your libraries. So do you truly think that BIPOC staff members are made to feel comfortable and welcomed?

Do you think they're truly comfortable and welcomed beyond the hello beyond the warm smile that you may give them? Are they really welcomed? Have you ever asked? So those are some things to be thinking about. If you really want to show and demonstrate that care and concern, ask them beyond if you hire them, you know that perhaps you may have a largely homogenous community. They may be one of one. Maybe one of four. Have those conversations, ask them about their experiences. And I think that's really important. It's also important to create... I believe in mechanisms and systems for that staff feedback. And I think this is another thing that ties back to it that we can do. The last question we answered, some of those similar things apply here where you allow people to give voice to concerns and create those mechanisms.

So ask people how they're doing once you're hiring them. Develop some strong hiring practices, some consistent hiring practices, some verbiage around the hiring practice itself. Just because a person is a hiring manager or a person who's hiring, doesn't nearly understand the HR practice and what that looks like, what should be said, what should not be said. Because if they had in this scenario, this person never would've said they looked the part.

Roxanne M. Renteria: 
Thank you, Christina.

Brittany Young:              
Our next scenario has another hiring and retention issue that comes up in libraries. "My library has difficulty hiring in retaining Spanish-speaking staff. Some of us would to change that as well as provide opportunities for current staff to learn Spanish. Unfortunately, others think it would be better for our library to focus on teaching Spanish-speaking library patrons to speak English. What are your thoughts on this topic?"

Christina Fuller-Gregory:      
Brittany, such a good question. Thank you for that. So I just want to say this. There are some libraries doing great work across this country in the area of ASL. So American Sign Language. For instance, Newark Public Library, they have a class and they teach their patrons ASL, but it is also one of those internal practices. There are other libraries throughout the country and they're teaching it to their staff members. So they're teaching, collectively, your staff is learning ASL, your patrons are learning ASL. It is a way for them to build upon their welcome and better support their unbearing patrons. When I hear this scenario, when I'm thinking about this scenario, it really, and that's why I mentioned this ASL piece, because to ask Spanish-speaking patrons to speak English and not make an effort or make the effort to communicate with them is a tremendous inequity.
 
Is that either/or thinking, it's either/or thinking. And so either/or thinking is another construct of white supremacist culture, either/or thinking. And for me it's defined by "Either they learn English or they can't communicate with us, because we don't have the capacity to learn Spanish, or we don't want to hire more Spanish speakers." That either/or thinking, that white supremacist culture. And for me, I think the simplest answer, Brittany, is why not both and. So as a library we'll provide our staff with the resources to learn Spanish. We'll provide ESL classes for our patrons and we'll learn together as we bridge our communication gap. So I think that is the simplest way to respond to that.

We see it happening in other ways. So across the country, they're creating these mechanisms for communicating. So for ASL, we should really be thinking deeply about how we can do the exact same thing in our library. So this particular instance, why not both and why do we have to either/or? We have to move away from some of those white supremacist culture ways of thinking.

Brittany Young:               
I love that as just a psychological thing. I had a career coach who once told me, "Why do you keep saying or? Why can't it be both?" We were talking about emotions and feeling certain ways. And so the fact that you put that with the white supremacist culture, it goes with also it's the binary thinking and also the perfectionism.

Christina Fuller-Gregory:           
Yes, absolutely.

Brittany Young:               
We would like to ask you, our listener, to reflect and act on the information gained from this podcast episode. What are your takeaways or a takeaway from the interview? I, for one, deeply appreciated hearing about the psychological safety, or the lack thereof, the issue of systemic organizational culture problems and either/or thinking. I will also be trying to separate the action from the person when calling out and leading people.

Roxanne M. Renteria: 
I loved the fact Christina reminded us that our fellow library workers across Oregon and the U.S. are resources as well, thus BIPOC or marginalized library workers may need to consider circumventing dominant power structures and reaching out to other department heads in order to verify information or policies. As with the example of the HR manager. If you go this route, be sure to always ask if they are willing and able to do that emotional labor. And then don't forget to pay them. After doing your own reflection, we hope you take action. Since the library environment rarely lends itself to amplifying the voices, work and achievements of BIPOC library workers. We invite white allies to stop worrying about saying the wrong thing. Now is the time to start speaking up and out in support of BIPOC coworkers and to check in with them. Explore the guide to allyship at https;//guidetoallyship.com/ before you do so.

[Voiceover]
OVERDUE, Weeding Out Oppression in Libraries would not be possible without the generous support from the Oregon Library Association and the State Library of Oregon, whose mission is to provide leadership and resources to continue growing vibrant library services for Oregonians.

[Voiceover]
We would like to take time to acknowledge historical injustices. We recognize Oregon was established as a white sanctuary state with the intent to exclude African American and black people on ancestral land stolen from dispossessed indigenous peoples. We recognize and honor the members of federally recognized tribes and unrecognized tribes of Oregon. We honor native American ancestors past present and future whose land we still occupy. This acknowledgement aims to deconstruct false histories, correct the historical record and disrupt genocidal practices by refocusing attention to the original people of the land we inhabit, the slave trade enforced labor that built this country and to the oppressive social systems interwoven into the fabric of our national and regional heritage. We ask that you take a moment to acknowledge and reflect as well.

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