Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Get Woke. Stay Woke.

Let me preface this post by saying I am a white middle class gay female who has absolutely NO personal experience or platform to address the issue of race and encourage my friends like Rafranz Davis, Sarah Thomas, and so many others to PLEASE call me out or add to this post.

For those of you inflamed by Elissa Elliott Malespina's open letter especially with regards to the "poor white middle class people" who were not mentioned, overlooked, and/or disenfranchised or who feel the political beliefs in Elissa's post are leaning in just one direction need to take a closer look in the mirror at themselves and examine why this is YOUR knee jerk reaction. Basically, you need to get WOKE. (Try starting to #getwoke by watching the documentary, 13th)

And while we are on the topic, how exactly have YOU (including me), the white, middle class, disenfranchised and underrepresented been slighted by the book industry in your school libraries?

And how exactly have YOU (including me), the white, middle class, disenfranchised and underrepresented been slighted by the television and movie industries?

And for those of you who think #BlackLivesMatter is a made up or over hyped phenomenon and should really be #AllLivesMatter, I have lived and seen how I, as a white person, am treated differently in comparison to my black friends, colleagues and associates in almost every conceivable situation. This includes how I was treated by social workers when I was a single teen mom with twins on welfare.   

Don't even get me started on the disenfranchisement of women *cough Elizabeth Warren cough*.

And then there are all of the jobs being taken away from the disenfranchised and underrepresented white, middle class.  What is actually happening is our school system has failed and is failing to educate students for the jobs that industries are in desperate need of. Each year the United States has over 500,000 computer science related jobs open and available but our current education system only graduates approximately 43,000 students knowledgable enough to fill these jobs.  It's not a matter of our jobs going to other countries; it's a matter of WE aren't teaching the skills industries want and need. Other countries actually start teaching coding and computer sciences as a basic literacy, just like reading, writing and basic mathematics, starting in Kindergarten.  Maybe it's actually going to take a massive shakeup of the current education system with someone like Betsy Devos to get our school system WOKE to the fact that we are FAILING children by continuing to teach the same content in the same way we have been doing for over 100 years.

But I digress.  Let's get back to libraries and the critical role we play in connecting, sharing, learning and growing together with our students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members. Certified school librarians are often the only professionals in a school who are exposing students to coding and the computer sciences through events like Hour of Code and through MakerSpaces. Certified school librarians are often the only professionals who create a safe place for all students regardless of their own personal beliefs and take opportunities to teach empathy and compassion.

I have personally attended sessions in library conferences where a presenter has specifically said, "We don't allow 'those' books in our library", in reference to books about homosexuals.  People like Jonathan Werner and others have fought to change the Dewey classification for homosexuality so that those like myself don't have to find information about ourselves among the "deviant behavior" books.  

I spent a day with Sharon Draper and loved that she doesn't like defining her characters by ethnicity but wants her characters to be open enough for the reader, regardless of color, to see themselves in the story.

And YES...unfortunately the current political climate DEMANDS that we as school librarians take a political stance, not for one side or the other, but for our STUDENTS.  Having a Library Graffiti Window as part of our school library MakerSpace has spawned "student voice" from both sides of the aisle, : "Build That Wall" & "#notmypresident" are just two examples.  These expressions of student voice have been used as opportunities to teach compassion and empathy.  Our wall is and always has been intended as a place for students to express their voice that doesn't attack, demean, or inflame. Because of this stance, I have taken my fair share of push back but I WILL NOT EVER back down when keeping a child safe is at stake.

Having listened to students crying about the fear of deportation, about being bullied because they (or their parents) support one political party or the other, having students afraid to participate in our 1st Annual Global Cultural Celebration Day because they didn't want to be targeted for being from a different country, students making plans to run away because their parents feel emboldened to put their gay child in conversion therapy now that trump is in the White House, and students who have actually killed themselves because the weight of the fear and stress has become too much for them to handle all weigh heavy on my heart.  

The collective "we" of school librarians must come together on this issue because in the end it's not about race, religion, or political affiliations. It is about our STUDENTS.

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