Brown v. Board of Education. Still far to go in Librarianship..


Kathleen McCook writes "On May 17, 2004 the nation celebrates the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education. In Derrick Bell's new book, SILENT COVENANTS: BROWN V.BOARD OF EDUCATION AND THE UNFULFILLED HOPES FOR RACIAL REFORM the results to today are explored. The deliberate speed was at a snail's pace in many places and defacto segregation in Boston continued for decades after Brown.

In librarianship the profession's efforts to reflect the people we serve among our own numbers have been recently analyzed in the LJ study,"The Diversity Mandate" by Denice Adkins & Isabel Espinal(4/15/2004) where it is noted:"In the 1995–96 academic year only nine percent of MLS graduates were students of color. That number peaked at nearly 13 percent in 1999–2000. Since the Spectrum program was initiated, ten percent of all MLS graduates are librarians of color."
The American Library Association SPECTRUM scholar program has had a small and positive effect on greater diversity in librarianship. Yet we must not think on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Brown that ours is a profession that fully embraces this goal. The conservative library website blogger, Greg McClay, discussed SPECTRUM on May 13, 2004--

Since 1998 ALA has provided over 250 scholarships for $5000 in what can only be called a racist effort to increase the number of non-white librarians. Not just increase the number, but the fact that these people applied and received these scholarships means they believe their skin color has relevance to the profession that they have chosen. ALA has spent $1,250,000 perpetuating a very crude and ignorant concept.

In the United States we should be tolerant of all points of view but it is important to recognize that intolerant people offer smell tests."


What in the world is wrong with helping folks who traditionally haven't been going into librarianship get a bit of assistance? This doesn't hurt those who would typically go in. This doesn't detract from anyone. It merely enhances. It seems like a practical idea to me.

I think this will rile some of you, but there is also another practical issue that bothers me. I am a white male (WASP, the whole shebang). I know, frankly, life has been easier for me than for others. Statistics show it, my life shows it. I think it is perfectly OK, a very good thing, that those without these inherent social advantages get some slight assistance. It makes sense.

As for colorblind, gosh folks, in a perfect world none of us would have any prejudgements, all would be perfectly equal at the start, and only the genuine cream would rise to the top. That world doesn't exist. So, let's try to make it better and more equal in whatever fashion we can. It doesn't hurt anyone and only helps.

I say three cheers for Dr. el la Pena McCook and all the efforts with the Spectrum Scholarship. It's a very, very good thing. For those who feel slighted by all this, tell me how this is the case? How has anyone lost for what is in my mind a win-win for our profession?

Thanks-- JI

Well, racism isn't restricted to Black people so it is good the scholarship is as inclusive as it is in terms of other minority groups. As far as what ALA does, I am very glad our leadership has the courage and vision to address the problem. Plus, it DOES improve our profession to get all kinds of perspectives. It's a good thing.

Importantly, SPECTRUM doesn't identify racism, it helps to ameliorate it. There is a HUGE difference. How would you address the issue of ongoing racism? Leave things as they are? Easy for you, you aren't in a minority. I think it's better to work at finding solutions. Remember, no one is taking from YOU, all that's being done is help is being given to others.

Still puzzles me, though, why this upsets people so. With all the things we have to struggle over as a profession, to complain about helping minorities.

Now, where is my magic wand? I need it because I want to poof you into an Hispanic woman for the next month and live in, say, Brownsville Texas. Then I want you to come back and argue that SPECTRUM is racist.

Thanks-- JI

I'm not ignoring racism, I'm identifying it. SPECTRUM isn't just about black people, *its every ethnic group but those considered 'white'*.

If the NAACP wants to start a grant to recruit blacks to the library profession thats their business but it has nothing to do with improving libraries or librarians and is not something ALA needs to be involved with.

As for the state of the black man in today's world I believe Bill Cosby's recent remarks define that situation better then I could.

Greg, the life you described sounds exactly like mine- my family was poor and I lived in the middle of no where. However, being white had advantages for me and it did for you. It is inherent, or at last has been in my lifetime. I spent my first three years of school in an all-black elementary school- the only white kid. I remember a teacher telling me I was a "rose in a sea of thorns." At the time I figured it was simply because I was great. Once I was older I realized my skin color was the deciding factor. I had a Black friend rejected by a masonic group that STILL will not accept Blacks. The rejection was extremely humiliating for him, who I can freely admit, was smarter and more capable than I in many things. You start to add all these things, and it takes its toll.

I wish I had a magic wand and could, poof, make you a person of color for the next month. A
modern version of "Black Like Me". I wonder what you would say when that month was over? To ignore that there is racism, that there is prejuidice in our society is dreadful. To couch this under the guise of "equality" is deplorable. I wish the world was perfect, but it isn't. Let's try and help to improve it and not criticize others who are doing so out of a sense of reverse entitlement. No one is taking anything from you, but you should recoginize that the game is set more in you favor than you acknowledge. That, at least from my perspective, is simply being honest.

OK, my $.02


A man is a man is a man. If I were a black man I would do what I do as a white man, I would find the heroes, legends, and leaders that I can learn from and respect and walk in their footsteps.

John Henry, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Rev. Gardner Taylor, James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, Serge Nubret, I'll even throw in Mr. T!

Life is full of challenges to take and burdens to bear. Accept the challenges and take on the burdens. That is the purpose of life.

The jury is still out on that question.
Below is African-American scholar Thomas Sowell writing on the Constitutional travesty of Brown, even if one makes the argument it has had good practical results. If a private school wants to discriminate on the basis of color, and set aside money for a certain group, that is their right. If ALA wants to spend money promoting certain groups, I am not sure what is wrong with that except if it means more qualified people get rejected due to skin color. Quality and competence, not color of skin, is what MLKing promoted.

(PS, I use term "Blacks" because that was the correct term back when Brown was written, along with Negro.)

But today, with 50 years of experience behind us, it is painfully clear that the educational results of Brown have been meager for black children. Meanwhile, the kind of reasoning used in Brown has had serious negative repercussions on our whole legal system, extending far beyond issues of race or education....

What the Warren court presented as legal reasoning was in fact political spin. The success of that political spin, in a case where most of the country found racial segregation repellent, emboldened the Supreme Court--and other courts across the land--to use emotional rhetoric to impose other policies from the bench in a wide range of cases extending far beyond issues of race or education.

Being white has ensured that you weren't subject to a lot of overt and covert racism. It appears that since you weren't subjected to these actions, everything is hunky-dory in the world. Try walking in someone else's shoes for a day. If you could choose, would you want all of the "social advantages" of being a black man in America?

"we waste time debating the value of skin color is sad". Sure is. So stop wasting everybody's time, Shush. Stop bitching.

I skimmed the Huntington article on Hispanic immigration. I don't recall ever hearing of him so I don't qualify as an acolyte but from what I read I agree with him. It has nothing to do with country of origin. If volocanos suddenly started creating a land bridge across the Pacific from China to California and we were suddenly dealing with a huge influx of Chinese and they were having trouble adapting to American life, if they bothered trying to adapt at all, it would be a legitimate problem. Hispanic has become another PC word, like gay. Any attempt to deal with a problem that may involve it automatically is seen as racist.

That soldier didn't die for the country he was from. He didn't die for the country he was going to either. He died for a dream, period. That librarians, people who belong to a profession older then America, no longer have a dream or even a basic concept of who we are, that we have become so lost in the wilderness that we waste time debating the value of skin color is sad.

"Huntington may despise such people for their origins..."

The writer imputes opinions to Huntington and then comments on them:

"Professor McCook may think killing puppies for sport is acceptable, but any reasonable person would find this to be inhumane."

I happen to support Spectrum, but can't we just dicuss things without it turning into a Manichean final battle of good vs. evil every single time?

" The first US soldier to die in the war on Iraq was a Guatemalan immigrant. He was not a US citizen. He did not die for the country of his birth but for the country of his dreams. Huntington may despise such people for their
origins, but it makes better moral and political sense to
embrace them, for our sake as well as theirs, before the
winter of this nation begins."--Earl Shorris in THE NATION,
May 31, 2004 writing about "The Hispanic Challenge" by
Samuel Huntington in Foreign Policy, March/April 2004.

>>As for colorblind, gosh folks, in a perfect world none of us would have any prejudgements, all would be perfectly equal at the start, and only the genuine cream would rise to the top.

John, prejudging isn't the crime here, we all do this. Discrimination is.

Our world is far from perfect, but perpetuating color sensitivities isn't getting us any closer to this utopia you and I hope for. As with many who ascribe to racial preferences, your argument is based upon assumptions and vague terminology.
For example:

  • Statistics show your life is easier as a WASP? Based upon what criteria?
  • helping folks who traditionally haven't been going into librarianship Who specifically?
  • So, let's try to make it better and more equal in
    whatever fashion we can.
    What is equal? When will we know when we get to this place?

    There is an aversion here with specificity and preferences. Take one of my reference librarians for example, his father was born in Pakistan, his mother is German. His skin is also very dark. Is this what you have in mind for those who we need to help? Disregarding his parents educated backgrounds and middle class status?
    If we are embarking upon social engineering, there are many other factors that must be considered. For example, middle class African American and "white" kids in city suburbs may have more in common than the latter with a poor white kid living in a rural community.

    It's just not the portrait I disagree with that some are trying to paint here, but the width of the brush they are using.

    Don't confuse my questioning with insensitivity. I support helping ALL those who need help based upon their individual needs and particular situation. Preferential scholarships based upon the single superficial criterion of "color" are implicit discrimination.

  • You may have had social advantages, I didn't. I come from a very small community located in the middle of nowhere. I didn't and don't have a lot of money and being white hasn't opened any doors that weren't already wide open to anyone. If I have had a successful life it is through hardwork and focus. Am I making these arguements because I feel I'm being slighted? No.

    I will repeat what I put in a post on another article:"In an occupation involving direct access to tens of thousands of books and loan access to millions, access to databases accessing tens of thousands of articles and the general internet with millions of sites, any attempt to differentiate the patron or the librarian by the color of their skin seems small."

    The only correction I'll make to that is that it does not seem small, it is small.

    I stand by my quote but the reference to a 'smell test' actually applies to a previous posting the day before concerning ALA's $20,000 grant for children's books in Iraq. The follow-up post compared the money spent on the two seperate endeavors.

    I didn't mean to seem as though I was setting fire to your post, Tomeboy. I just get a little upset when people speak of tanning and I live with being very dark, day in and day out, of being subjected to subtle racism day after day, and my children sometimes in tears. I realize some "non-minority" persons will think I'm being overly sensitive. I try not to be. But I certainly didn't mean to hurt your feelings or to question your integrity. I'm sure you mean well. I just don't think you have to face the world as I and my loved ones do.

    >>I've been tilling the yard and playing tennis. I'm colored Kathleen.

    Folks this is a fact, not a backhanded slur. A few weeks back I would have mentioned "olive-toned". We all have color, though ALA obviously doesn't agree hence my request that someone define this nebulous term.

    Regardless, I find this business of pigeonholing with color demeaning. Consider this for a moment before setting fire to my post.

    I, too, stand corrected.

    I'm speaking of John W Berry. I stand corrected on the LJ reference. Apologies for any confusion.

    Nevertheless John W Berry is still active within ALA though not as LJEIC.

    ALA past-president John W. Berry is the executive director of the Northern Illinois Learning Resources Cooperative in River Forest, IL and chair of the ALA International Relations Committee.

    ALA past-president John D. Berry is a Native American. He is not the John Berry who is editor in chief of LJ.

    So you should get a scholarship to library school because someone called you a name.

    Man I should have a PhD by Wednesday at that rate.

    All of us have to live with racism every day. Some of us are on the receiving end, some are required to distance ourselves from racist idiots we share a skin color with.

    It is too bad that your life revolves around your skin color and the comments from morons. If I were you I would do my best to ignore them.

    Gee whiz. So you've been outside and tanned yourself "colored". How nice. Has anyone called you the "n-word" lately? It's happened to me. I think it's really nice you can be colored whenever you want to, just so you can drive home some point. Some of us have to live the racism every single day and don't have the convenience you have of shedding our skin.

    Kathleen - consider your words here ...In librarianship the profession's efforts to reflect the people we serve...

    Kathleen the beauty of this blog is that we don't see each other.(not that I wouldn't like to meet you) My words stand alone, without a physical frame of reference. You may agree, or most likely disagree with my thoughts here, but they will be based solely upon their content.

    LISNews is truly a colorblind society.

    However, my words, thoughts, philosophies, et al with librarianship would all change if we were face to face as I read your post here. Rather than welcome ALL who aspire a profession in libraries, I hear you ask that our profession adopt a litmus test of color to affect a perceived needed change by social engineering. I find your comment "efforts to reflect the people we serve", both sad and disconcerting. I would like to believe that I CAN and DO serve ALL people well. Feedback over the years supports this.

    There is also the elephant in the room with this "diversity" talk. I remember John Berry settting aside a good part of his ALA web page promoting diversity. I would read why John, and ALA, felt that everyone but white males, (ironically the latter is not afforded minority status in library circles) were needed in our profession. But like most white males that publicly stump for diversity, John never resigned his office as ALA President. In fact he continues to hold positions as an executive director of a midwest consortium of community colleges and as LJ EIC. As library positions are finite, isn't he, and others of like gender and race part of the problem here? Has anyone ever gently reminded John of this? Have you?

    One last thing about "color". As I look as my hands peck away here, I notice they have color. Sort of tan hue. I've been tilling the yard and playing tennis. I'm colored Kathleen. Now, if you are referring to the word "colored" which I consider less a descriptive term but rather a pejorative epithet, then I ask one thing. Define it. Specifically. Skin and eye color are no indications of one's "race" anymore than they are of someone's intellgence.

    Seriously? Is it to point out the gains from the Spectrum program or is it to point out that a conservative librarian blogger isn't in favor of it?
    Can librarianship as a profession tolerate diversity of opinion, even when that opinion isn't one that perhaps a majority of librarians would support?

    Dr. McCook conflates quite a few things that need to be kept separate and distinct:

    • Equality of opportunity vs. equality of results.
    • Access to basic elementary education vs. post-secondary education and career choice.
    • Ending state-sanctioned segregation vs. the use of financial support to achieve the desired goal of "diversity."

    In short, let us not lump together genuine civil rights issues with questions that concern only the self-perception of a particular profession—particularly if it is to no other end than to score political points.