The Reading While White team is jumping for joy this week, because Ernie Cox is joining us. Ernie works as a Teacher-Librarian in Iowa City and was chair of the 2016 Newbery committee. Ernie's first post as a Reading While White blogger is below. Welcome to Ernie!
The manuals for book awards administered by The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) were recently updated to include a statement on Diversity and ALSC Media Award Evaluation. It concludes with this passage (the entire statement is available in any of the award manuals at http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia):
“As individuals serving on committees evaluate materials according to the criteria outlined for their specific charge, they should strive to be aware of how their own perspectives and experiences shape their responses to materials. Every committee member brings unique strengths to the table, but every committee member also brings gaps in knowledge and understanding, and biases. Committee members are strongly encouraged to be open to listening and learning as well as sharing as they consider materials representing diverse experiences both familiar and unfamiliar to them.”
When my colleagues and friends here at Reading While White invited me to contribute to this blog I wish I could tell you I was filled with excitement. I felt uneasy, perhaps uncomfortable too. What was the source of my discomfort? The professional discourse in children’s literature has shown us that for many good-intentioned folks it is difficult to “be aware of how their own perspectives and experiences shape their responses to materials (children’s literature and media)”. That includes me. I’ve also heard what can happen when we listen to other perspectives - new insights into our own gaps and biases appear. I read through the resources on the RWW site to better understand what this blog was all about. Scanning through Peggy McIntosh’s piece on White privilege I came across this point:
“I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.”
That is where the discomfort was for me. I’ve rarely had to speak or write about Whiteness. This might be the ultimate luxury of White privilege - being oblivious to our invisible impact on the world and not needing to say one word about it. Like an award committee’s work, the work of being an ally for a diverse and inclusive profession (and society) is a process. Unlike an award committee’s work, it is an unfolding process spanning years. A process that will require me to be uncomfortable. That my discomfort is primarily cognitive is another testament to my privilege. I look forward to getting to know more about myself and others through this blog.