[Note: I recently shared this personal message with City Library staff. I have decided to share it publicly because, as Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” The City Library stands with our community against injustice and racism.]
It is difficult to find any words adequate to express the mix of deep sadness, of anger, of exhaustion, I am feeling in response to the killing of George Floyd. Mr Floyd’s death is yet another in a long line of tragic killings of Black Americans in our country. It is difficult for me, as a white male, to fully understand the pain his family is experiencing, nor the pain, sadness, and fear that members of the Black community must contend with every day.
Frankly, I woke up numb today, after the senseless violence in our City that followed a morning of peaceful demonstrations. But I am fighting against the numbness, to stay present to my own pain, but more importantly to the pain, and to the voices of community members who suffer the direct impact of systemic racism on a daily basis.
As the Director of an important public institution, I am aware that our organization has great power to affect change in our City. We have the resources, and a position of trust in the community, which we can bring to bear with great intentionality and purpose to help our community understand and address the impact of structural racism and the inequity that has always flowed from racist policies and practices.
We must begin with ourselves. The Library has taken steps, with the creation of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Council , to review our own policies and practices, to ensure that we are consistently bringing those values to life in all that we do. In self-assessing my role as Director, I recognize that I need to take a stronger role in supporting EDI work, and in ensuring that we are devoting our time, attention, and resources to the goal of creating a just and equitable organization. I am committed to doing so.
As I re-read my words, I am concerned that the depth of feeling and emotion I have right now may not come through strongly. Emotionally, I am spent as I write this and fear saying the wrong thing. But I fear that saying nothing right now is worse. We must condemn the fact that in our country in 2020, people of color continue to suffer inequity, injustice, and threats to their lives and well being in almost every area of society from our justice system, to our schools, to our healthcare systems — as we are sadly seeing play out during the COVID pandemic. We must commit ourselves and our institution to bringing about a just, equitable, and safe society for everyone.
Salt Lake City Public Library